In an era filled with WhatsApp, BBM, Facebook Chat and all sorts of other protocols, Google still wants to be your de facto messaging choice. To this end, Google Hangouts has now been updated and improved with some new features. For example, location sharing is now supported, if you’re into that kind of thing.
One of the most notable updates is native support for regular old SMS text messages. This is a feature that is rumored for Android 4.4 KitKat (which should be officially unveiled any day now), allowing Hangouts to be your default SMS handling app too. This way, your conversations with friends will be seamless whether they send you a text message or if they chat you up on what we used to call GChat or GTalk.
Another big change is support for animated GIFs, which some people will love and other people will positively despise. You’ll also find “auto enhance” added to Hangouts video calls, automatically adjusting contrast and brightness to provide the best image possible. Video calls will now default to HD too. The new mobile app version should roll out in the next few days.
A series of updates are also coming to Hangouts on Air, including the ability to schedule a broadcast, create a dedicated landing page that integrates with Google+ events, get a countdown timer and list off the people who have RSVP’d to your event. These new features will roll out in a few weeks.