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Hangouts may lose SMS support as Google overhauls it to take on Slack

Why it matters to you

If you're an Android user who relies on Hangouts to handle your text messages, Google may soon force you to find a different app for the job.

SMS integration in Google’s popular Hangouts messaging app may not be long for this world. An email shared on Reddit, reportedly sent by the company to G Suite administrators, claims Google will remove the feature on May 22 as it continues to push non-enterprise users toward its new Allo and Duo platforms.

According to the post, Google will begin notifying Hangouts users of the change next week, asking them if they’d like to switch to a different texting app on their device if they’ve chosen Hangouts as the default. If they don’t have an alternative installed, it will direct them to the Google Play Store to get one.

For those who use Google Voice, the company points out that this change only affects people sending SMS through carrier phone numbers, and Google Voice numbers will continue to be supported.

It’s no surprise that Google would be ridding Hangouts of one of its primary selling points while it re-positions the service. Last fall, Google notified Android partners that Hangouts was to no longer be included in the operating system’s core apps package. And just several weeks ago, the company unveiled Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet — two new apps that represent the evolution of the platform as a business-centric tool similar to Slack and Microsoft Teams.

Still, it seems like only yesterday Google launched Hangouts as the successor to Google Talk, pitching it as the one-stop app for all your communication needs, whether that involved Google contacts, SMS and MMS, or video calling. Up until that point, Android lacked its counterpart to Apple’s Messages — a default application on every phone that could intelligently consolidate old-fashioned texts with faster, more feature-rich internet-based chat in the same conversation.

That was an important advantage for Hangouts’ adoption at the time, as it meant users could completely replace their texting app with Google’s new service, and slowly and easily migrate their conversations to Hangouts as their friends made the switch. As a result, Google cultivated a modest following with Hangouts over a number of years.

While it never rivaled Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp in terms of sheer active users, Hangouts was special because it worked on so many different levels. As Google distributes features that all used to be contained within Hangouts among different services, users will be forced to install to multiple apps to compensate — and Google could very well lose them in the process.