In the last couple of days, in other words since Google I/O 2013, Google has slowly started to replace the old Google Talk with their new supposedly unified messenger solution called rather awkward ‘hangouts’, a term previous used for get together in Google+, their social media equivalent of Facebook.
Google Hangouts, is supposed to replace Talk, Voice, Messenger (Which was used in Google+, rather than talk) and SMS, if we have to believe them, this is coming. Personally speaking I much preferred the name Talk, if for nothing else mostly because it has been around for ages and you know, change is scary. Plus the icon itself was more pleasing to the eye
Google Hangouts seem to really divide people about how well it has been executed. Personally I am firmly entranced in the camp that thinks that the new solution comes across as incomplete, ill-thought out at worst and a half baked attempt at a beta solution at best.
Below are /my/ reasons that are also echoed by various people on forums and such.
First of all, because Google is trying to unify their services more and more (this happened pretty much earlier last year with sharing data between the various services that you use. I can live with that because frankly that makes sense to me.
But with the new app, I get to see *all* my contacts, regardless if they have a Google account or not. I don’t want or need that. The old Google app had those whom I specifically added and that is how it should be.
Even worse; they have added every one in my circles. The problem with that is that I follow several awesome people (Such as Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton among others) because I like to read what they say and what they are doing. I am thinking about things like Home-brewing and their Geek and Sundry channel and shows. Do I have a need to (note; need, not want) to talk to them? No. Do I think they are waiting to hear from me? I sincerely doubt that.
With the new interface it is becoming increasingly hard to see who is actually online or not. Yes I know, I know, the people who are offline are greyed out. But for me that is not the point. I prefer to see in one look who is online and who is not. This means that people who are actually offline, do not show up. I don’t care that most protocols can deal with offline messages, or rather I care a great deal for that because it does come in handy. However I do not need to see the people that are offline.
Following on with what can be only described after a design implementation after a 2 bottles of Jose Cuervo; You get 6 huge pictograms of people, three of them which do not even have a Google account. Then you get “frequently contacted”, which may be, by the looks of it, anything ranging from email to Google+ interactions to actually having talked with these people. Eventually followed by the rest of your contacts, whether that be phone, email or Google plus.
Also navigating to your contact list is very unclear and involves unnecessary steps. Instead of clicking on the hangouts icon (much like the old Google talk). I have to press on “new hangout requests first, then swipe right-to-left to the contact list. and from there the search starts between my many contacts. It’s just very convoluted 
One of the reasons I have heard other mention is that the whole situation does not scale very well with regards to multiple Google identities. While this is not something I personally struggle with (I rather prefer to install extra apps) then deal with the mess from that. The problem of Google mail/talk/etc so tightly integrated into the core of the android operating system is that adding a gmail or talk account makes this information spread through the ecosystem that comprises of your smartphone.
Perhaps this may be me (quite possible after all), but for some reason Google have decided that the best way to show the time when the last message was send to use an ellipsis. I mean seriously? Did nobody take a step back and think: “hold on guys .. we’re actually going to use punctuation as an animation?” An ellipsis is used to either create or build tension, or often in chat-systems are used as turn-constructional units to signal silence, for example when indicating disagreement, disapproval or confusion. Surely a company as Google should know this?
And last, can we please, please have the ability to denote a status? I mean, to set us to away, do not disturb, offline. This has been the staple of messaging clients since god knows when. I am sure that Google things that we don’t need this anymore, but I think they are pretty much very much mistaken.
Also the SMS integration is something that actually worries me. I am quite happy with the old philosophy that one program should do one things and do it well. The promised integration leaves me wondering how replies will work and such. But time will tell.
However was is worth noting that Google does not always deploy services everywhere at once. For example, Google Voice is something that is only really available in the Americas and not say in Europe. So integration here with Google voice will be next to useless.
I really hope that Google get’s things eventually sorted and that the app is going to get a much smoother interface and the experience of using it would be much nicer. Because right now, while somewhat useable it can’t touch really, at least for me, on how effortless and seamless Google talk was.
R.I.P Talk, you’ll be missed.
1 - Google I/O is an annual developer-focused conference held by Google in San Francisco, California. Google I/O features highly technical, in-depth sessions focused on building web, mobile, and enterprise applications with Google and open web technologies such as Android, Chrome, Chrome OS, Google APIs, Google Web Toolkit, App Engine, and more. 2 - Edit: Okay, in retrospect you can just press the “+” in the upper right corner. But from a design view it is not clear. I would have expected that to be to add something to the existing conversation, rather than a new conversation.