Google just released a brand new Hangouts app for Chrome OS and the Chrome browser on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It is not an update to the existing Hangouts Chrome extension, but is actually a brand new app that can either run alongside the extension, or all by itself.
Notable differences between this app and the Chrome extension include the introduction of “chat heads,” similar to Facebook Messenger on Android. You can move these anywhere on your screen, or exit them completely. Additionally, you can hover over any avatar to get a preview at the most recent message you received from that person.
Unlike the extension, the Hangouts app has to have a window open in order to send and receive messages – this isn’t a big deal if you run this alongside the extension, but if you only want the app, it has to be open in order to receive new Hangouts notifications. For someone like me, who values a clean taskbar, this can be problematic.
I have also noticed that launching a voice or video call will open a new tab in the Chrome browser, instead of its own window. Since Google is advertising this to be a “native app experience,” this seems a bit odd. In this particular case, I prefer the extension over the app, simply because the extension feels more native.
The app, however, looks more similar to its Android counterpart, which is good. This could also indicate that “chat heads” will be coming to Hangouts in Android soon, although Google will have to call them something different. And like its Android counterpart, it supports voicemail, calling, and SMS through Google Voice.
In any case, this looks to be a promising start, although it’s still a little buggy, and Google still has some work to do. If you try this out yourself, be sure to let us know what you think!
Download: Chrome Web Store