Earlier this week, a number of people discovered that they were no longer able to install the Hangouts app on their WearOS smartwatch. However, they were still able to reply to Hangouts messages, due to the fact that it was installed on the phone that the watch was connected to. Google has now confirmed on its support forums that the standalone Hangouts app for WearOS is gone. But the functionality of Hangouts on WearOS will still exist.
It's all very confusing, but the skinny of it is, you will still be able to get Hangouts messages on your wrist. You can still reply to them, create new messages and such. But there's no dedicated Hangouts app for WearOS. So if you setup a new smartwatch, that's one less app that you need to install. For most people, this is going to mean basically nothing, as most didn't install the app anyways, because it was on their phone already, and "just worked".
The shut down of the standalone app on WearOS is likely part of Google shutting down Hangouts in the future. Hangouts will be shut down sometime in 2020, as Google moves everyone over to the Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet applications, that were originally supposed to be for G Suite customers, and not just everyone. But after the outcry over Google getting rid of Hangouts, they had to open up these new apps to everyone.
Google shutting down Hangouts is not a huge surprise though. Google typically does this with its products. It'll launch something new, work on it for a little while then let it go off on its own and hope that people use it, so they can make money on it. If that doesn't happen, it gets shut down and something replaces it. Google is notorious for doing this, and of course users are not too fond of that thinking.
Currently, Google has seven (yes seven) messaging apps. That includes Google Hangouts, Hangouts Chat, Hangouts Meet, Allo, Duo, Google Voice, and Android Messages. Google is going to be eliminating Hangouts and Allo in the next year, leaving us with just five messaging apps - still too many. It's a prime example of Google having way to many apps that all do, essentially, the same thing. Hangouts, though, is the most popular of the seven. Since it was pre-installed on its smartphones for many years, and just about everyone that came from Google Talk, transitioned to Hangouts. Not to mention it had the desktop app, which Allo didn't have for quite a while.
The Hangouts app is gone from WearOS, and that shouldn't be a big deal. This isn't removing Hangouts functionality from your smartwatch, if anything, it is making things much more efficient and easier to deal with. Which is important, when talking about apps that are on your wrist, and on a screen thats about an inch and a half wide. Hangouts users may be upset about this, but it is what it is, and soon, Hangouts will be gone completely.