Google has just updated Hangouts to version 4.0 with a number of design tweaks aimed at improving the messaging app’s overall user experience.

The tweaks are quite subtle, and thus may not be immediately apparent. But they’re sure to catch your notice as you continue using the app.

Read And Send Messages More Easily

For one thing, the muted green tones of your message bubbles in the conversation view have been replaced by a darker shade of green that highlights the messages of the person you’re chatting with. This makes it easier for you to see your friends’ messages, especially when scrolling through long conversation threads.

In addition, the attachment options (new photo, photo library, location, emoji) are now readily available through a new toolbar, instead of being hidden beneath the old paperclip button.


Share Photos More Quickly

The attachment options now also show their respective selection menu right within the keyboard, instead of opening up a different page.

The photo attachment options are of particular note as they now behave à la Facebook Messenger, with a viewfinder built into the keyboard for snapping a new photo and the photo library now scrollable right within the keyboard for selecting photos to send. What’s more, Hangout now allows sending multiple photos at once.


Setting a status

Other than contacts, the only new item in the drawer we’ve found is a “status” option, where users can set their status for others to see in their own contacts lists. This is a feature that’s been visible on the web for a while, but not on mobile. Users will be reminded of their status (and which account they’re using) when returning to the home screen courtesy of a snackbar message.

Chat Screen Changes

♦ Inside an actual chat, everything has been tidied up. Overall, the chat interface seems to make slightly better use of space, with several tweaks that keep things feeling cohesive.

♦ Your outgoing messages are now white, while incoming ones are green. Additionally, your avatar no longer appears in chats, and time stamps are not included with each message, instead appearing sporadically throughout the message stream. The message bubbles also have pleasing rounded corners.

♦ Rather than a paperclip icon, users get a whole row of attachment options for images, stickers, emojis, etc. When opening one of these options, the app’s toolbar recedes off the canvas to make room and keep messages visible. Once you’ve typed a message or made an attachment, a big FAB will appear to send. As you’ll see below, the image selection interface also has its own FAB in case you want to go to the document view (which was the default behavior in 3.3). Whether this is a good use of the FAB is debatable, but users asked for FABs in Hangouts, and it looks like Google isn’t skimping.

♦ To see details about each message, copy text, or see a contact card for your conversation partner, just long-press their avatar.

♦ With SMS enabled, a dropdown appears on the left side of the message box with the option to manually switch between messaging options, similar to the current version of Hangouts.

Hang out with the updated app now

The new version of Hangouts boasts various other interface refinements, including sidebar navigation, a redesigned dialer, and a floating plus button for starting a new “hangout.”

You can check them out for yourself by downloading Hangouts 4.0, which is available now on the App Store as a free download for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad running iOS 7.0 or later.

Taken together, the app’s interface adjustments, however subtle they may be, can go a long way toward helping the app better compete with WhatsApp, Viber, and other, more popular messaging services.