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Google brings Hangouts to version 14, includes app shortcuts and new menus

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Robert Nazarian/Digital Trends

Google Hangouts is changing focus. While at one time the app was Google’s main messaging focus, the app is now shifting toward enterprise, which is where it has achieved the most adoption.

The latest update to the app includes a number of new features that will be helpful to professionals using Hangouts in their business, however many of the features aren’t business specific — they’ll be helpful for anyone using Hangouts.

The first major change brings Hangouts in line with many other Google apps for Android 7.1, offering app shortcuts on Android launchers that support the feature. The app shortcuts in Hangouts are “Chat,” “Video call,” and “Voice call.” Those options certainly aren’t a big surprise, especially considering they were already visible in the code for Hangouts 13.0. Now, in Hangouts 14.0, the options are finally visible.

App shortcuts are certainly an interesting feature, and while they clearly represent an attempt to compete with Apple’s 3D Touch on its iPhone, most Android users certainly aren’t complaining, especially considering the shortcuts are often very helpful.

The new Hangouts also includes some changes to how group chats are set up. Now, instead of pressing the “New group” button, you’ll simply tap “New conversation,” after which you’ll find a “New group” button. Tap on that, and you’ll be able to select the contacts you want in the group message.

Last but not least, you’ll find that menus and settings in the chat window have been reorganized. The chat screen itself hasn’t really changed, but in the overflow menu you will see some changes. For example, the “People & Options” menu has been broken up into two different sections, probably in an effort to make the menu a little easier to use.