Google wants to make it easier and faster for customers to use its free video and voice chat service Hangouts, which is why this morning it is rolling out a new Hangouts Chrome App for Chrome OS and Windows PCs. (No word yet on Mac support). The app lets you use Hangouts alongside whatever else you’re doing on your computer, instead of having Hangouts buried within a sea of browser tabs.
The app includes all the video and voice features found in Hangouts on the web, and includes support for dialing any phone number worldwide – a recently announced feature that works by way of the improved Hangouts dialer. And if you use Google Voice, you can do so through the new app in order to make and receive calls, listen to voicemails, and receive your Google Voice SMS messages.
The Hangouts Chrome App also features an interesting, modern design, where the contact lists and chats are condensed into a window you can toggle, and the Hangouts themselves appear in a format that’s sort of like Facebook’s “Chat Heads” – that is, rounded icons containing a user’s profile photos, or, in the case of a multi-person Hangout, several smaller, round profile photos within the larger rounded icon.
Notifications from your Hangouts will pop out on the side of these round icons when new messages arrive, and you’ll always receive your messages as long as the app is running on your desktop. The chats and messages will also sync across your devices, so you can move back and forth easily and still be caught up.
The new app is available on the Chrome Web Store here. Users already running the Hangouts Chrome extension on their Chrome OS or Windows PC will be prompted to upgrade to the Hangouts app, says Google.