There’s been a few reports circulating recently suggesting the Wear OS version of the Hangouts app is now longer working. Here’s what we do know:
Trying to install the Wear OS version of the app on a smartwatch directly from the watch is no longer an option. Likewise, attempting to manually send the app to the watch from the desktop version of the Google Play Store is also no longer an option.
The fact these are now being reported is no indication that this has suddenly happened. There has been user reports of these routes to installation not working dating back to the middle of last year. So when Google actually stopped the access via these routes is unclear.
What has definitely changed recently though is the other routes to installation that were previously available.
For example, Wear OS users have been able to continue to install the Hangouts app on a smartwatch by heading to the “apps on your phone” section of the smartwatch's interface. To access this section you need to head to the Play Store app on the smartwatch and then if you scroll down you'll see the "apps on your phone" option listed under "Watch Faces" along with a list of the apps that are currently installed on your phone.
This route allows users to easily install the apps on their phone, on their smartwatch without having to directly go in search of the apps. This route still redirects users to the Play Store listing and this route had permitted installs of the Hangouts app on a smartwatch as recently as last week.
That has now changed. So for those who had previously considered this to be a workaround for Hangouts, it no longer is.
This also effectively means there’s no obvious way now to install the standalone Hangouts app on a Wear OS device anymore.
Already installed Hangouts?
At present, this does not seem to be affecting devices that already have the app installed as those users are still able to use Hangouts on their smartwatch as they did before. How long that remains to be the case is another matter entirely, but as of right now the app is still operational.
It is worth keeping in mind that if those users uninstall the app, or reset the smartwatch for whatever reason, they will no longer have access to Hangouts and again it will no longer show up in the “apps on your phone” section as it did before.
Why is Google removing the standalone app support?
Hangouts, in its current form has been giving its marches orders. This is in terms of what Google now refers to as the “Classic” version which is already in a state of being slowly retired.
Google first confirmed it was closing Hangouts Classic down in December of last year (along with Allo) and by January of this year had provided a few more details on the process. For example, G Suite users can expect to see their Hangouts Classic support coming to an end before this year closes out, while general Gmail users will be given a bit of an extension to get their Hangouts affairs in order with support for the Classic version due to come to an end for them sometime in 2020.
These are the finite end dates and so between now and then select features and aspects relating to the Hangouts Classic experience will most likely be retired on their own - as is the case with the standalone Wear OS version of the app.
What’s next for Hangouts on Wear OS?
With the demise of the Classic version, Google will be hoping to see all of those Classic users transition over to what Google presumably now views as the ‘Hangouts Modern’ version of the app. Well, technically the two apps - in its newer guise Hangouts has been split up into Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet.
The former takes on more of the message-based features while the latter, the video benefits.
In due course it would be presumed Wear OS versions of both Hangouts Chat and Meet will become available. Although as is so often the case with Google, nothing is guaranteed until it is announced.