Google is said to be prepping an update to its Hangouts instant messaging/video chat Android app that would allow it to integrate with SMS, making it possible to get all text and MMS messages right in the same inbox. That would fulfill a promise made a long time ago, near when Hangouts was first announced, by Hangouts and Chat community manager Dori Storbeck.
The new info comes from Android Police, which says it had heard that Google would be building SMS integration into Hangouts in a version releasing soon, a report that was then corroborated by screenshots from an anonymous tipster. In the screenshots, Hangouts is depicted as showing messages clearly sent “via SMS,” as well as being able to “Send an SMS message” in the existing compose screen. There’s also a screenshot of the settings where SMS can be toggled on and off.
The update would also offer up video sharing via Hangouts, the report claims, but the biggest news for both Google and for other third-party messaging platforms would be the SMS integration. It would consolidate one more service/app offering into Hangouts for Google, which has already subsumed Google Talk and Google+ Messenger. It would be easy to see it taking the next logical step from there and offering VoIP services, too, providing a complete over-the-top service.
It would also be potentially bad news for competitors like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. FB’s messaging app already offers SMS integration, but Google’s Hangouts version would ship on devices pre-installed, and could conceivably replace the Messaging app altogether, making it the default option for Android users. It could also eat away at more carrier business, as combining the two and favoring Google+ based messaging first would have a similar effect to iMessage, where carriers eventually derive less revenue from shuttling SMS content back and forth.
SMS has long been in the cards for Hangouts, and hopefully it’s arriving soon. There’s no timeline attached to the report, apart from some speculation it could arrive with Android KitKat, but in all likelihood this functionality will be generally available to Hangouts users regardless of their OS version.