Google is removing SMS capabilities from Hangouts starting in May.
The move comes as Google continues to move Hangouts into the enterprise and away from consumers. A leaked email to several G Suite admins reveled the plan to strip the messenging app of SMS capabilities. The email starts with, “Last year, we announced several improvements to the most popular features of Google Hangouts, such as the new video meetings experience and better group chat messaging. As part of that ongoing effort, we will be removing carrier SMS text messaging from Hangouts on Android after May 22, 2017.” They go on to say that there will be an in app message prompting users to choose another default SMS app and if they don’t already have one installed, they will be directed to the Play store to install one. The hope here is that most user will move over to Android Messages for their SMS and RCS needs. The one exception here is Google Voice and in turn Project Fi users who still use Hangouts for SMS. They will be exempt from this update, for now.
Removing SMS from Hangouts has been inevitable for awhile now as Google slowly clarifies their messenging strategy. They relaunched Android Messages to be a pretty great SMS app that will cater in the era of RCS and split Hangouts into Hangouts Chat and Hangout Meet to focus on the enterprise. The combination of Hangouts Chat and Meet is meant to be a full fledged Slack competitor which will make G Suite an attractive solution for small and large businesses around the world. There’s not a clear plan for the consumer version of Hangouts but it’s getting less and less useful as Google strips out features. They clearly want consumers to use Android Messages, Allo and Duo for chatting with friends and family.