Voxer is a relatively popular messaging app for Android and iOS, and has long been considered one of the best solutions available for those looking for a great PPT (push-to-talk) experience on mobile. It received a ton of funding a few years ago, and while it never really took off in the mainstream, it’s still being updated even today with new fixes and features for its dedicated group of users. It has somewhere between 10 and 50 million Play Store installs.
George Kola, a software engineer that was most recently Chief Technology Officer of the company for more than a year, has now joined Google according to his LinkedIn profile. While it’s of course possible that Kola could have joined Google on his engineering merit alone and could be working in just about any department within the Mountain View company, it’s still worth asking: Could Google possibly have its eyes on bringing some walkie talkie features to Hangouts?..
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As per Kola’s LinkedIn profile:
As CTO of Voxer, I have deep experience building real-time low-latency messaging systems used by tens of millions of users world-wide. I designed the SPDY/HTTP 2.0 version of the Voxer client/server API that significantly lowered latency for real-time voice chats and image/text and video messages, reduced packet loss rate and improved the performance on mobile clients while conserving battery life. I designed the network layer of the iOS app that talks this API and it became the reference for android implementation as well.
Doing a quick search of the Google Product Forums, there have been at least 4 requests for the feature over the last couple of years. “Ideally Hangouts mobile app for Android could send short audio messages which would be recorded and sent by sender with just one tap on button,” one user said. “I’d like to see a push to talk integration with Hangouts,” said another. It’s clearly a feature that’s at least in some amount of demand from Hangouts users around the world.
Another thing worth mentioning here is Google’s ambitions to bring its services back to China. Lenovo’s chief recently said that Google Play Services will be coming to China at some point this year, and various reports last year said that Google intends to launch a China-based Play Store as well as bring Android Wear to the country. Why does this matter? WeChat, the most popular messaging application in China, has a walkie-talkie feature. And based on my experience in the country last month, it’s one of the most-loved features of the app.
Whether or not Kola is actually working on the Hangouts team within Google (although, I will say that the Hangouts team definitely needs as much help as it can get), the possibility of push-to-talk or walkie talkie-like features coming to the app at some point in the future seems likely to me. Apple recently added quick voice messaging to its iMessage platform, so why wouldn’t Google follow suit?