Which messaging app from Google should you use?

Google has three instant messaging apps that enable you to chat to friends, relatives and work colleagues - Hangouts, Messenger and Allo. Which im app should you use and why? It is a confusing situation!

At first sight, these three apps look very similar and they enable you to chat to people using instant messaging. The question is, why would Google create three apps that do the same thing?

The reason is that they are all different, although it would be a lot less confusing if there was only one app.

Hangouts

If you have been using Hangouts as the default messaging app on your Android phone, you might have seen a message encouraging you to switch to Messenger like this:

Google Hangouts messaging app for Android

It seems that Google is trying to get users to switch from Hangouts to Messenger. It isn’t clear why because Hangouts is actually the more power app of the two.

Both Hangouts and Messenger can send messages, and they can send messages using SMS text messages using your phone too. They can both replace the default text messaging app that comes with your phone, such as the one that Samsung provides on its phones.

One of the differences between the two is that you can place video or voice calls using Hangouts. Up to 10 people can take part in a group video call. Voice calls can be made to other hangouts users for free and it is even possible to call landline telephones too. Go to https://www.google.com/hangouts/rates to see the costs for for this, it varies from country to country.

You can think of Hangouts a being Google’s version of Skype and it does messaging, video and voice calls.

Messenger

Messenger on the hand, is pure messaging and it does not provide video or voice calling. You can record and send audio with messages, but you can’t call anyone. It is a simpler messaging app that is designed to be more fun than the default text messaging app that comes with your phone.

Google Messenger app for Android

The simpler interface and simplified messaging seems to appeal to people and Messenger has a higher score on the Google Play Store, 4.2 vs 3.9 for Hangouts. It’s hard to find anything it can do that Hangouts can’t, but if you never use voice or video calling you might prefer it. Google seems to think you will.

One feature that some people might find people is the ability to block messages from a person you don’t want to speak to.

Allo

This app is to be released summer 2016 and it has not yet been released as I write this, so I can’t tell you what it is like to use. Allo is in the Google Play Store, but right now all you can do is register your interest.

Allo is a messaging app and no mention is made of SMS text messages, so it does not look like it will be a direct replacement of Messenger or Hangouts. Does this mean that we will need yet another messaging app to talk to people or will it replace Messenger when it is finally released?

It doesn’t make sense to have a new separate app to handle messages although it does have a couple of features that might tempt you to use it. One is the incognito mode. This encrypts messages to and from another person so you can have a private conversation without anyone else being able to eavesdrop and discover what you are saying. Only the sender and the receiver can read the messages.

Google Allo messaging app for Android

The other feature is the Google assistant. Basically it enables bots to be used. Bots are going to be bit and Facebook recently introduced them in its own Messenger app. Bots enable companies to interact with people in various ways and you can almost have a conversation with them. You can ask for weather forecasts, buy goods from stores, subscribe to services, get information and more. All by sending text messages.

Google assistant will be your personal helper and advisor, getting stuff done for you and keeping you up to date with the information you need. Find out more in this Google Blog post.

If you make Hangouts or Messenger the default text messaging app on your phone, it shows all your messages and you can use whichever app you prefer. Hopefully, Allo will be able to do the same and we will be able to uninstall both Hangouts and Messenger and use Allo for messaging and texts. It would be a pain to have to keep all three apps.