Google has updated both the interior and exterior of its Hangouts app, making communications smarter and offering stickers that can supplant elusive words.
The latest version of Hangouts hits the Play Store first, as the iOS variant is awaiting certification from Apple.
The new Hangouts will include 16 sticker packs, with more of the colorful images to come in future updates, according to Bradley Horowitz, Google's vice president of product. Horowitz explained some of the new features in Hangouts while he was attending the LeWeb Conference in Paris.
"We've got pirates, we've got cats, we've got Vikings," said Horowitz. "There are also some Easter eggs. Certain stickers are more than static stickers. They'll do things and be interesting, and people will discover those over time."
Beneath its exterior, Hangouts was also updated to include timestamps and location tagging. The "last seen" timestamps will clue users of the mobile app into the availability of their contacts, according to Rhett Robinson, a Hangouts software engineer.
Not every Hangouts user will see the timestamps when the update is rolled out, as Google plans to release the "last seen" stamps in a series of waves over the next few weeks, according to Robinson.
Hangouts' new location-tagging feature uses machine learning to recognize when one party is wanting to know where the other is or what that person is doing. The queried individual will have the option to share their location with others, sharing the position with as much or as little accuracy as desired.
Horowitz says the location-sharing feature takes the tedium out of looking up a venue and then entering it into hangouts. Users have the option to share their locations with their contacts, doing so in just one step.
"When you're trying to meet up with friends in real life and someone asks, 'Where are you,?' Hangouts can now understand what you need and offer to help," says Robinson. "You'll see a one-tap option to share your location right in the conversation, without you needing to hunt around in a map, drop a pin and send your position."
While Horowitz didn't say it, Google's dedication to Hangouts is the search engine company's attempt to serve as the go-to messaging service on mobile devices. Hangouts is meant to be broader than Facebook and SnapChat messengers.
"It's texting, it's telephony, it's one-to-one, it's many-to-many, it's consumer, it's enterprise," Horowitz said. "It's not like throwing a dart and hitting one app like [an] ephemeral imaging [app]. We're trying to do something broader that helps people communicate wherever they are using whatever products they prefer."