Communication has never been easier and more dynamic with the tools available in the Web. From chat to video calls, you can practically reach anyone anywhere with messaging apps such as Skype, Facebook Messenger, and Whatsapp. Google launched Hangouts on May 15, 2013 during its yearly I/O conference in San Francisco. Hangouts may be a newbie in the messaging wars but it is undoubtedly a strong contender. In fact, Google was the leader in this arena back in 2005 when it launched Talk but for some reason it lost its traction and got left behind.
Google had to build Hangouts from scratch and mobilize a group of engineers to work on it. Google’s director of real-time communications Nikhyl Singhal describes Hangouts as “the single communication app that we want our users to rely on.” It has successfully built an infrastructure that is as formidable as its competitors with a couple of surprises here and there. Today, we’re wrapping up our Google Business Suite series with Hangouts. We’ll have a look at its features and see how it’s faring compared with other messaging apps.
More powerful voice and video call. Almost all messengers have voice and video call options but what makes Hangouts different is that it can accommodate up to 10 users in one group call. You can do that from your computer or mobile device. Your friends will also see if you’re calling them regardless if they’re using their laptops, smart phones, or tablets. Another big plus in using Hangouts is that it offers free phone calls anywhere within the US and Canada while calls to other countries have really cheap rates.
Hangout On Air is a great business tool. Hangout On Air gives you the opportunity to conduct live stream webinars. You can host a conference, facilitate a panel discussion, and conduct events using this platform. Since Hangouts On Air is connected to YouTube and Google+, your recording will be made available for sharing right after your streaming event. You can also conduct recorded meetings and brainstorming sessions that you can all review after for quick reference.
Everyone can Hangout with you. Hangouts is available on multiple operating systems since it’s browser-based. It’s also available for both Android and Apple devices. Hangouts also works inside Gmail so if you need to message or call someone instantly while working on your emails, you can easily do so.
Hangouts has a simple interface. You will easily notice that Hangouts has a very clean and simple interface much like other Google apps. You can also see if your friend has viewed your message already and if he or she is currently typing a response. It also allows you to share files easily even via Google Docs, pictures, and videos.
Hangouts vs. Skype. We all know that Skype leads the video conferencing arena. It has even become a verb with people saying that they’ve Skyped or are Skyping. However, it’s worth noting that Hangouts is catching up pretty quick. Its ability to hold 10 users in a single call is being offered for free. Skype can host the same but under its Skype Premium subscription. Skype also charges for phone calls within the US and Canada while Hangouts offer this for free. Both platforms can save chat histories but with Hangouts you have the option to choose the “off the record” feature if you don’t want your chats stored.
Hangouts vs. WeChat. This infographic shows that WeChat is currently the number one messaging app in the world. It offers practically the same features as Hangouts except for its innovative built-in bank card, which allows you to pay via virtual credit cards, and QR code scanner. Hangouts is automatically connected to Google+ while WeChat has a Facebook connect feature that allows you to sign in using your Facebook username and password.
Hangouts vs. Facebook Messenger. Facebook messenger is still touted as the most popular messaging app in the US. Since messaging apps work only if your friends are using it, Facebook wins over Hangouts in the user-base race with Facebook having an enormous database compared with Hangout’s Google+. Some analysts say that one of the disadvantages of Hangouts is that most of your friends are not there. Hangouts also hosts video calls but Facebook does not. However, Facebook does host audio calls but Hangouts oddly does not allow this. Facebook also has a cleverly designed chat head that pops out when you have a new message, overlapping any screen which allows you to access your messages easily.
Google Hangouts is poised to have more users as it requires Google+ registration. However, this doesn’t guarantee that people will use this messaging app. What is certain though is that it provides you with platforms that optimize your business communication efforts. Hosting a meeting now is not restricted to a few people. The 10-people voice and video call capability along with Hangout On Air are pretty remarkable features. You can have your virtual assistant take down the minutes of your meeting, while your offshore team pitches their ideas, and your management team evaluates them. You can host more streaming events to a global audience with Hangouts. Ultimately, the messaging app you choose will depend on the things you require for your personal or business use. Almost all of these apps are free and you can download them to see which one will suit you best.
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