Google describes Hangouts 4.0 for Android as having “a fresh new look, improved speed, and features that make it even easier to reach people the way you want to reach them.” The first is achieved by following Google’s Material Design mantra, first introduced at the company’s I/O conference in June 2014.
The Material Design implementation is not just a visual update. Google says items now respond to your touch “in more intuitive ways” and transitions between tasks “are more fluid.”
Also, as part of the redesign, Hangouts has gained a new Compose button that Google claims makes it easier to start a new group or conversation. The contacts list has also been streamlined to make it easier to find the person you want to message.
More importantly, attachments have been revamped and simplified. That means it should now be easier to share emojis, GIFs, your location, and even multiple photos at once.
Design tweaks aside, the Hangouts Dialer now has Outbound Caller ID (calls from “Unknown” should become a thing of the past), you can receive and reply to group MMS messages in Hangouts using Google Voice, Android Wear is now supported (just say, “Ok Google, send a Hangouts message,” into your watch), and custom status messages have been added back (available on the web and iOS for a while, but not on Android). This is by no means a small update.
Hangouts for Android is also supposed to be faster now. Google has been “obsessively” fixing bugs and speeding up message delivery to ensure its messaging app performs better and is also more reliable.
Last but not least, Google is promising reduced battery consumption. How much more slowly Hangouts will drain your battery, however, the company did not share.