Google Hangouts app to gain support for SMS, location sharing and animated GIFs [UPDATED]Alex Wagner - Deputy Managing Editor, News Desk
Google today confirmed that its official Hangouts messaging app will gain support for SMS messaging. The company announced today at a Google+ event in San Francisco that users have been requesting that SMS capabilities be added to Hangouts so that they don't need to juggle multiple chat apps. As you can see in the screenshot above, SMS chats will be marked with a small "SMS" rectangle in the profile image of the person that the user is chatting with.
Two other new features coming to the Hangouts app are location sharing and animated GIF support. First up, Google will be adding a location button to Hangouts that will allow users to quickly share their location with their Hangouts chat partner using Google Maps. Hangouts will also be gaining support for animated GIFs in chats.
Google didn't spend a ton of stage time talking about the Hangouts app and its new features, but these new features sound like pretty nice additions to the company's chat app. The addition of SMS support means that Android users will be able to do all of their chatting in a single app rather than switching between Hangouts and a Messaging app, which ought to make chatting quicker and less confusing. Of course, Google recently revealed that Android 4.4 will include the ability to set a third-party app as the default SMS app, so users won't need to rely on Hangouts for their SMS needs if they don't want to.
There's no word yet on exactly when the Hangouts app will be updated with these new features, but I'm betting that the refreshed app isn't far out. Stay tuned and I'll give you a shout once it goes live.
UPDATE: Google also announced today that its Google+ app for iOS will soon receive an update that enables full-size photo backup and background sync.
UPDATE 2: Google has posted the news of its Hangouts update over on its official blog, announcing that the refreshed Android app will begin rolling out "in a few days." Until then, you can find high-res screenshots of all three new features in the gallery at the bottom of this post.