Google adding location sharing, GIFs and SMS to Hangouts for Android

Apparently everyone wants to replace SMS.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

Apparently everyone wants to replace SMS.

Facebook is trying it with its recently announced update to Messenger on Android. And according to the multitude of origin stories about Twitter floating around, the micro-blogging service was initially conceived as an SMS-killer.

Could Google+ be the one to do the trick?

The immediate answer is not over night (and well, maybe never), but the Internet giant is laying the groundwork anyway.

Arguably the strongest and most popular feature to Google+, which is still well behind the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn in active membership, is Hangouts.

(For reference, according to Google's latest figures, Google+ has approximately 300 million active users with more than 1.5 billion photos uploaded every week. There are roughly 540 million people active across Google each month total.)

Thus, it's no surprise that the video conferencing arm gets the most attention from users, press, and internal developers in Mountain View alike.

The Internet giant is gearing up to roll out a number of improvements to its social network, starting with Hangouts.

Announced on Tuesday morning, Google is adding location sharing, GIFs and SMS to the Hangouts app. Thus, users will be able to schedule Hangouts on Air and promote them in advance via a dedicated landing page.

Certainly the animated GIFs feature will immediately please some users (and then quickly forgotten by many others), but the other two are critical being that they both keep mobile users (and their data) within Google+ rather than losing them to other apps -- even just for a few seconds.

As explained by Google senior vice president Vic Gundotra in a blog post, Google+ users can send a map of the current location (vs. finding and typing an address) as well as send and receive SMS (vs. switching between apps).

The updated Google+ for Android app and video calling features are scheduled to become available in a few days. The On Air improvements won't be ready immediately but are promised to follow "over the next few weeks."

There are also a number of photo and video editing as well as lighting improvements that will be distributed this week too.

Image via Google+

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