Refreshed Hangouts in Gmail makes it easier to see who’s online

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Today, Google announced an update that improves Hangout’s integration in Gmail. In an effort to make your contacts more accessible, this new tab displays friends who are online first, followed by those who aren’t. You can still send messages to offline contacts, however they won’t get them until they sign into Hangouts from a desktop, smartphone or tablet.

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Hangouts on Air’s new Showcase app helps broadcasters further promote their products and services

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Today, Google announced the availability of its new Showcase app for Hangouts on Air that lets hosts promote content related to their conversation like websites, YouTube videos, Google+ profiles and content from Google Play via an onscreen panel displayed on the right-hand side of the video feed. For example, the cast of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes recently held a Hangout and used the Showcase app to share links to trailers and movie tickets.

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Google rolling out live event alerts in search results for YouTube and Hangouts

Google Live Events Search

Google has began rolling out an experimental feature on its search engine that makes it easier to find live events on YouTube or Hangouts on Air. A live event will begin showing up in search results up to 3 hours before it starts, providing users with a link that takes them to the event page to watch. A card-like box appears at the top of Google when searching for the name or author of live events.  Read more

Google is reportedly shuttering SMS for Hangouts feature in emerging markets (Update)

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Last year, Google added SMS support to Hangouts, along with several other features. However, prior to this, the company also had a similar feature available in emerging markets that let users add their phone numbers to its instant messaging platform. Similar to Google’s defunct Gmail SMS service, this was an alternative for feature phone users and people in regions with limited internet access.

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Google+ premium features expanding to all Google Apps customers

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Google recently expanded its Apps services for enterprise users by making its premium communication features available to everyone. Apps customers can now broadcast a 15 person Hangout chat session with HD video quality, a perk previously unavailable to standard subscribers. Furthermore, these new premium features introduce enhanced privacy controls that let admins restrict a Google+ post’s visibility, along with the option to hide employee profiles from external searches.

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Google’s Connected Classrooms is hosting 18 field trips today for Take Your Child To Work Day

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In honor of Take Your Child To Work Day, Google will be hosting 18 virtual field trips today via Hangouts. The search giant is partnering with Forbes to set up visits to various businesses, which include trips to: the Georgia Aquarium, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Stanford National Lab and the Chicago Bulls locker room.

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Hangouts 2.1 for Android introduces merged conversations and a new widget

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Today, Google announced that Hangouts 2.1 will be releasing for Android later this week and that users will be treated to a nice list of improvements. The most notable being that SMS and Hangout conversations with the same user will now be merged. Meaning that if you start a conversation with someone over SMS through Hangouts and later resume talking with them through the app’s instant message setup, both chats will be merged into a single log.

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Google plans to kill Google Voice in coming months, integrate features into Hangouts

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We’ve heard that Google Voice is getting dragged to the trash can and most of its functionality will be incorporated into the G+ Hangouts apps on both Android and iOS. This has already happened to an extent with the ability to phone friends on Hangouts, but we’re hearing the full shuttering and depreciation of the app is the next step.

What’s interesting here is that VoIP-to-phones is expected to be integrated into the Hangouts iOS and Android apps so that, just like with the Web version, you could be able to actually make (and receive) VoIP calls directly from your Google phone number. Whether the carriers and Apple are okay with this isn’t certain, and the thought is that it could be enabled by carrier like Apple’s FaceTime (or could be scrapped altogether) depending on the global market and the carrier. Read more

Google SVP Sundar Pichai denies it bid on WhatsApp

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Sundar Pichai at D: All Things Digital conference

Despite widespread reporting that Google bid and failed to purchase WhatsApp ahead of Facebook’s $19 billion acquisition of the messaging platform company, Google SVP Sundar Pichai went on the record during a panel discussion at Mobile World Congress to put that claim to bed, The Telegraph reports.

“Whatsapp was definitely an exciting product,” he said. “We never made an offer to acquire them. Press reports to the contrary are simply untrue.”

The source of the reports that Google attempted to pick up WhatsApp for $10 billion source back to a report by Fortune citing “two separate sources” claiming Google had previously underbid Facebook. Read more

President Obama hosting ‘Road Trip’ Q&A via Google Hangouts on Friday, January 31st

Obama Hangout Road Trip

Next Friday, January 31st, President Obama will embark on a Presidential Hangout Road Trip promoting his State of the Union address to Congress and responding to questions submitted via Google+ and YouTube.

The Presidential Hangout Road Trip is actually a Google+ Hangouts session allowing the President to respond online to user submitted questions and topics he addressed in Tuesday night’s State of the Union speech.

YouTube will be live streaming both the SOTU address and the Republican response starting at 9pm EST next Tuesday. Check below for how to submit a question to the President during the Hangout Road Trip: Read more