Okay, so we’ve introduced Google Hangouts and gone over its costs. Now, it’s time to have a quick look at what makes Google Hangouts good or not, so you can decide whether to make it your new communication tool to hang out on online, or whether to just hang up on it. Here’s our take.
Hanging out only costs you time… mostly — For the most part, Google Hangouts is free to download, install, and use. The only thing that might cost you money is if you use it to call standard phone numbers outside of the United States or Canada.
Lots of places to hang out — Google Hangouts is available on a lot of different platforms. You can use it on your mobile device, install it as an add-on to your favourite web browser, or access it right from your computer desktop by pairing it with the Google Chrome web browser. You can even use it from inside your Gmail account!
Get the message across however you want — Google Hangouts supports multiple communication methods. You can exchange text messages (or even pictures or videos) with other Google Hangouts users, or chat with them over a real-time video feed. You can even call people on the phone through Google Hangouts, even if they don’t use Hangouts themselves!
How does this work, again? — There’s a bit of a lack of consistency when it comes to how Google Hangouts works across each of its versions. For example, if you want to call phones when using Google Hangouts on a mobile device using the Google Android operating system, you need a separate app called the Hangouts Dialer. Or, if you want to use the desktop version at all, you need to install the Google Chrome web browser first. We’ll do our best to point out how processes differ between the desktop computer and mobile device versions.
How much Google is too much Google? — Google Hangouts is tied in with a lot of other Google services, such as the Gmail email service, the Google Chrome web browser, and the Google Voice voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP) service. This isn’t such a big deal if you use a lot of Google products anyway, but if you don’t, you may need to plug your information into a few other services that you aren’t going to get a lot of use out of (which also kind of stinks in terms of privacy.)
The bottom line: 8/10
As far as Internet communication apps go, Google Hangouts has a few things going for it. First, it’s mostly free to use, and the parts that cost money are usually cheaper than most comparable services. Second, it can be used on a number of different platforms, including mobile devices, the Gmail email client, many common web browsers, and your computer desktop (if you have the Google Chrome we browser). And third, it’s an all-in-one solution, with text messaging, file sharing (including videos and pictures), video chat, and even phone calls to people who aren’t on Google Hangouts!
Google Hangouts has two big drawbacks, though. The first is that it doesn’t seem to work exactly the same way depending on where you use it, so certain functions may be easier to use on the mobile device version versus the computer desktop version, and vice-versa. The second is that it’s somewhat dependent on a bunch of other Google services; this is fine if you use stuff like Google Chrome, Gmail, and Google Voice regularly. But if you don’t, Google Hangouts might seem to you like an online communication tool that has too many strings attached to using it.
Overall, whether or not Google Hangouts will be the right online communication tool for you depends on whether or not you like using other services from Google. If you do, then Google Hangouts will fit naturally into your repertoire of Google-powered productivity tools. If not, then you may want to look at some of the more stand-alone alternatives to Google Hangouts, so that you don’t have to deal with the hassle of going through a bunch of other services that you’ll rarely use just to get an effective all-in-one Internet communication app.
If you’d like to hang out with Google Hangouts for a while and see what you think of it based on your own experience, our next tutorial will show you how to download and install it for your mobile device or desktop computer.