Improved Hangouts is one of the most common requests from Android users. According to a rumor late last year, Google is working on making it a better chat client by removing SMS capabilities. It now appears that as a part of that Hangouts will use a peer-to-peer connection when possible.
Last week, an updated version of Hangouts advised users to switch to Google Messenger, hinting that SMS capabilities might be removed in the future. With that update fully rolled out, some users have begun seeing a prompt during calls that says “Hangouts will improve quality for future calls by routing audio and video over a direct, peer-to-peer connection, when possible.”
A new support page details that a direct connection to the person you’re calling is more efficient than routing the call through Google’s servers. It notes that a direct connection between you and another person reveals both your IP addresses, though there is no immediate way to look that up in the Hangouts UI. Presumably both users will initially need to be calling through the Hangouts Android app to see the benefit of this.
Google might possibly be using a technology that they have long been supporting called WebRTC. Web Real-Time Communication is an API that supports browser-to-browser voice and video calling without the need of plugins. It was announced back in 2011 and has since been rolled out on all version of Chrome, save for iOS. In addition to consumers not needing to download anything, WebRTC is highly secure encrypting both the actual contents and the signaling used to initiate the chat.
With rumors that Google is working on an AI-powered chat service, Hangouts might finally be getting the polish and new features that users have always wanted. Interestingly, the CTO of Voxer, a messaging app with a walkie talkie feature, recently joined Google. Maybe those features will soon be finding their way into Hangouts.