Why Google Hangouts is now my preferred SMS app

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| December 19, 2013

The way we communicate with our cell phones has certainly changed in many ways over the past decade or so. What started out purely as a mobile telephone for voice chat soon turned into a device both for voice calls and text messaging. Today, many people hardly even use their cell phones, or smartphones as they've been coined, for voice calls much anymore - it's all about the convenience of texting. It's understandable, at least from my perspective. As nice as it is to hear somebody's voice, it's hard to deny that texting gives us the opportunity to hold conversations while multitasking much more easily than it would be to do so while holding a phone up to your ear. Voice calls require immediate responses, but text messages are more of a "respond when available" type of communication.

But I'm pretty sure we already know this stuff.

So here we are in 2013, and texting is still one of the most popular methods of communication. With the smartphone era also at hand, it comes as no surprise that developers would take the opportunity to build on the basic integrated SMS application and make it more intricate. Most integrated SMS apps are just your basic SMS application - you send pictures and messages to a phone number, you receive pictures and messages from a phone number. That's how texting works on the most basic of levels. But these are smartphones, and they have the ability to be so much more than just your basic texting machine - any phone can do that. With smartphones you can add emoticons, you can set moods, you can jump across multiple messaging platforms, you can even video chat with some of these SMS apps these days. Applications like WhatsApp, Skype, Handcent and Go SMS Pro are popular alternative text messaging apps that add tons of features for text message conversations.

I've tried all of them, and none of them really tickle my fancy. In the end, they all just did too much for me. There are some things in a smartphone that are supposed to be complicated. Text messaging applications, for me, is not one of them. When I heard that Google was going to be integrating SMS into Hangouts in Android, I was excited because I always thought it should be an option, but I also didn't think that I would actually grow to enjoy it.

I was very, very wrong. 

The thing I didn't like about the other applications the most was that they all seemed so... busy. In the end it seemed like there was just too much going on, or too much effort required on my part in order to set everything up. Too much to bother with, anyway. I know it makes me sound like an old fuddy duddy, but that was one thing I really liked about iOS text messages - it was easy. I mean, that's kind of iOS in a nutshell, but you know what I mean. The entire messaging experience on iOS was clean and easy from the get-go. I also think one of the more subtle parts of iOS's messaging system (or really, something I enjoyed across all aspects of the platform) was their ability to add smooth animation just about everywhere. In my head, animation really cleans a transition up. Even though I'm now back on the Android bandwagon, there are still some places (namely my SMS app) where there are no animations going on and yeah, it looks choppy. Don't ask me why I notice these things, I just do. Animation happens to be the first thing I noticed about Hangouts when I decided to use it as my main SMS app.

For a lack of a better term, Hangouts seems fluid. I like fluidity. It's also speedier at responding to my prompts than my One's integrated messaging system, so it has that going for it as well. Although fluidity and speed alone probably would have sold me on Hangouts, over the past week or so I've come to enjoy all aspects of Hangouts as an SMS application.

For one, the app is very gesture-based, and intuitively so. I have a terrible memory of what does what, but basically Hangouts makes it really easy. As with most integrated Android SMS apps, you can press and hold down on a conversation to delete it. You can also silence individual people or archive the thread. You can archive a thread by swiping it left or right; if you didn't mean to archive it, an option pops up to undo the action. Swiping left on the preview of all conversations will take you to the last page you were viewing, whether it was a thread, Hangout, or it could be your list of contacts. There's a plus sign at the top to start a new conversation or Hangout. 

That's about all there is to it. Nothing too fancy, nothing too complicated. A nice, simple application that does what it's supposed to do and does it well. I will say I do like HTC's stock messaging app more than most stock apps that I've used, because they do have a lot of options and I'm particularly fond of the color theming options HTC included in their settings; however, Hangouts hands down has the most fluid and intuitive interface that I've had the pleasure of using when it comes to SMS on Android. I also liked how hassle-free it was to set up. I downloaded the update, it asked me if I wanted to use it as my designated SMS application, I said yes and that was it. No more notifications from my stock app from HTC, and everything from previous messages were imported seamlessly. Easy, peasy, one-two-threesie.

And that's the story of how I fully switched SMS applications for the first time in the history of forever. A truly moving tale, if ever one has been written. 

But enough about me, let's hear about your thoughts on Hangouts, readers! Have you had the opportunity to try out SMS on Google Hangouts yet? If so, what do you think? Do you prefer it over your stock messaging application? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Image via Droid-Life

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