Google Hangouts is a communications platform by Google.
The comms platform allows users to communicate with contacts via instant messaging, video chat, SMS and VOIP.
It replaced several separate messaging products, including Google Talk, Google+ Messenger and Hangouts, originally a video chat system for Google+ users.
Hangouts runs in the background and notifies you of new messages and incoming calls with animated notifications.
This uses Voice over IP technology, sending the calls as ordinary internet traffic rather than as a conventional voice call. The calls can therefore be sent as data over 3G or wi-fi, meaning that they can be completely free.
Hangouts was split in two in 2017 – what is the difference between Chat and Meet?
In 2017, Google made the move to split Hangouts into two products – Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat.
Hangouts Meet is an audio and video platform, not dissimilar from Skype for Business. The company hopes it will make joining meetings more streamlined, with one click access and up to 30 participants, for when face-to-face is not a viable option.
The other half, Chat, more closely resembles Slack. The team messaging service will provide a unique dial-in number for conference calls, and anyone will be able to join without having to download an app or plugin by generating a shareable web address for the chat.