Dear Google: Please integrate SMS with Google HangoutsAnna Scantlin - Contributing Editor
As cell phones change, so does the way that we use them. From flip phones to smartphones, we can see just how our usage has changed just by the way that we hold the phone; flip phones were always near our ears for voice calls, smartphones are more often than not in front of our faces, as we have the entire Internet at our fingertips. But there was one feature that was, and is, undoubtedly popular no matter what phone you were using: SMS, or as many of us know it as, "text messaging".
Texting has evolved exponentially from flip phones to how we text today. With flip phones you usually only had the numeric keypad, which entailed having numbers 1-9 and a third row for 0, pound and star. Under each number from 2-9 is a set of three alphabetic letters (ABC, DEF, GHI, etc.). Depending on what letter you wanted to use in a text message, you would tap the number that many times to get the desired letter. So, say you wanted to say "Hi": You would press the number 4 twice, and then wait for the cursor to move and press the number 4 three times again. Sounds confusing when you try to type it out, but once you got the hang of it you could type a word fairly quickly.
An alternative to that method would be using something called 'T9', or predictive text. Yes, autocorrect was a thing before the iPhone had it believe it or not! T9 worked a lot more simply. Instead of pressing each key a number of times to get to the exact letter you were looking for, you would just press the number of the letter you were once. So, if you wanted to say someting like "Goodbye", you would press 4, 6, 3, 2, 9, 2 instead of 4, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 3, 2, 2, 9, 9, 9, 3, 3. T9 wasn't always correct, because by sharing 3 letters with each key you're pretty much bound to come across other words that use the same prediction sequence, but you catch my drift. T9 was implemented to make texting speedier and easier on time and our cramped hands.
Then, the revolutionary implementation of the QWERTY keyboard came, making things about eight thousand times easier in most cases. Phones like the LG Rumor, the T-Mobile Sidekick, the LG EnV, and other feature phones of the like were at their prime when it came to the increased interest in text messaging. At some point in this QWERTY keyboard fad phase, BlackBerry became more than just a PDA with extra features for businesses. Not only did BlackBerry phones provide an easier way to text, but it also had the ability to enhance the text messaging application itself - it's kind of like comparing Notepad to Microsoft Word on a computer. In the end, you Word has way more features and enhancements to improve what is being written. It became a prime target for habitual texters everywhere. The keyboard was comfortable, the phone's browser was exceptional, and then there was the true defining feature of the platform: BlackBerry Messenger. The very idea that whatever message you were sending was easily integrated with other groups and was instant as long as an Internet connection was on the device was great not only for business, but for social personal use as well. BlackBerry Messenger was, and still is, a defining feature of the BlackBerry brand today.
And then the iPhone came out, and eventually took the instant messenging integration a step further. It was a simple implementation that came about in iOS 5 back in 2011, allowing iPhone users to send messages, photos, videos and other forms of data to each other over WiFi or a 3G data connection. This helped avoid carrier fees for text messaging, and was good for sending large documents. The best part was that iMessage didn't come as a separate application from the iPhone's SMS application - it just figured it out for you whether you were communicating with another iPhone or not. Simple and effective.
Android has mysteriously never implemented such a messing system until recently, when they replaced Google Talk with Google Hangouts. Although Google Hangouts does have its perks and is great for chatting it up with other people who have Google accounts (and is also cross-platform between iOS and Android, which isn't something that Apple is willing to with iMessage it seems) it was still missing something that iMessage was able to do: SMS integration. The Hangouts and SMS applications are separate in the Android system, which can sometimes be a hassle if you like using both platforms for chatting.
The Hangouts application is great. It has a nice interface, it's not laggy; it is a very well done application in my opinion. But the one thing that I would like to see is SMS integration. I just prefer having all of my messaging centralized, and iMessage was one of the little things that I really liked in iOS for a more enhanced messaging solution. I would like to see something similar happen for Android as well. They have both the components they need, now they just need to combine them.
Readers, what are your thoughts on Google Hangouts and SMS integration? Would you like to see it happen, or do you prefer to have your SMS separate from other messaging programs?