Become a master of Google's excellent Hangouts messenger service with our easy guide.
Hangouts is Google’s own messenger service. Once part of the Google+ social network, it has since expanded into a standalone service and become a tremendously valuable communications tool.
Like many messenger services, you can hold text-based chats as well as voice chats, video calls and full-blown video conferences. Hangouts also integrates with other Google apps and services like Google Home for even more versatility.
How to Get Started in Google Hangouts
First off, download the app if it wasn’t pre-installed on your phone.
There are desktop versions of Hangouts if you're going to be using a PC or Mac. In fact, it’s actually integrated into your Gmail account on your PC, but we’re going to concentrate on the Android version.
Open the app and it’ll sign you in automatically via your Google Account, or what Google call a "G Suite account" – just in case you’ve seen that and not been sure what it means.
If you have multiple Google accounts on one phone, you’ll be asked to choose the account you want to use for Hangouts. From there, you should see a blank page looking a little sad and telling you there are no conversations yet. That's because you haven't made any!
Tap that plus sign and choose text conversation. At this point, you’ll be prompted to allow the Hangouts app to access your contacts. Confirm that and you’ll be able to start chatting away.
Phone number verification
When you start using Hangouts on a phone, you’ll also be asked to verify your phone number. This just means you’ll be sent a text with a security code and Hangouts will ask you to confirm it.
This will let people find you via your phone number as well as via your Gmail address.
If you’re already signed in and haven’t been asked to verify, you can set it up yourself. Tap the three parallel lines on the top left, then tap settings, followed by the account you want to verify and then scroll down to verify phone number. It's that easy!
But what else can you do?
- Video calls. As you would have seen when you hit the plus button, Hangouts also lets you make video calls via your phone's front-facing camera. But Hangouts is designed to be collaborative, so you can have up to 10 people in on the call, which is one hell of a party.
- Group chats. Even the text chat isn’t just a two-way street. You can get a group chat going between friends and family. And it’ll accommodate up to 150 friends and family members if you're particularly popular.
- Use Hangouts from Inbox. If you’re using Google Inbox on your phone, you’ll have an option to send a Hangouts message directly from their contact details.
- What about making phone calls? You can use Hangouts for making Wi-Fi calls to regular phone numbers, but you’ll need to download the app Hangouts Dialer. After that, you’ll see that Hangouts has two tabs at the top of the screen. Just be aware that Hangouts Dialer isn't a free service; you’ll pay around US$0.04 a minute to call an Australian mobile number. Odds are your mobile plan already has lower cost (or unlimited) calls, so it's best to only use this as a last resort.