Why I turned off merged SMS & IM in Hangouts 2.1.076

Having just updated the Google Hangouts app (and being in a blogging mood), here are my thoughts about the new merged conversations feature.

I immediately turned off the feature of merging SMS and Instant Messaging (IM) messages into a single stream of conversation in Hangouts (as of version 2.1.076). I had similar issues when Hangouts 2.0 was released and the SMS and IM messages used the same notification sound.

Again, this might be related mainly to Europe/UK/me because of our lack of total mobile broadband geographic coverage (as opposed to population coverage), or our historic use of SMS vs US consumer SMS use which is actually a relatively new concept.

I use SMS and IM in very different contexts and often duplicate a message over both platforms in order to ensure an important message isn't missed. SMS has a very slow cadence ranging from minutes up to days apart. IM on the other hand usually has a fast cadence of between seconds and minutes. Combining the two seems illogical.

Add to this the user experience mismatch for people that use two separate applications or don't have Hangouts on their phones. Having to continuously switch between sending a Hangouts message or SMS (and picking the correct number for the reply) feels like it would wear thin very quickly.

Hangouts is my default medium, and if someone sends an SMS it gets my attention more because of the slow cadence. For the same reason that real [snail] mail gets my attention... that it takes marginally more effort to send and is used less frequently, and therefore must be more important than the same message from the same person but on the 'easier' or more modern medium.

Mail vs Email, then and now Cartoon by Victor Hung

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On weekdays I'm a Technical Lead at Comparethemarket.com, having previously been a Solution Architect at Nokia & Nokia Siemens Networks, creating creative software solutions for mobile operators around the world.

In my spare time I'm an avid new technology fan, and constantly strive to find innovative uses for the new gadgets I manage to get my hands on. Most recently I've been investigating Mobile Codes, RFID and Home automation (mainly Z-Wave). With a keen eye for usability I'm attempting to create some cost-effective, DIY technology solutions which would rival even high-end retail products. The software I develop is usually released as Open Source.

I have a Finnish geek partner, so have begun the difficult task of learning Finnish.


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