With many of Google’s apps already updated to support the newest Android 7.1 features, Hangouts is the latest to add app shortcuts. Version 14 sees shortcuts for starting new voice, video, and text chats, but still lacks support for image keyboards and sending GIFs.

From the homescreen or app drawer, users can quickly start a new chat and voice or video call with all three opening up their respective “New conversation” screens. Unfortunately, having multiple accounts annoyingly brings up the “Choose account” picker every time.

Unlike in the FAB, the chat shortcut does not distinguish between a regular Hangouts conversation and SMS. Additionally, the “New group” option has been merged into the general “New conversation” interface with a redesigned picker.

In a conversation, the overflow menu has been simplified. “People & Options” has been split into two, with Archive and Delete moved under the latter screen.

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While a nice addition that brings feature parity, I would have much preferred that Hangouts show a list of frequent contacts rather than a method to start new messages. Following Google Messenger’s lead, three contacts and a new conversation shortcut makes for a better default.

Unlike Messenger, Hangouts still lacks support for Android 7.1’s image keyboards. While built into Google Keyboard, it has to be enabled on an app-by-app basis by the developer. With Google Voice supporting MMS and regular conversations featuring stickers, I see no reason why sending GIFs has been omitted.

Version 14.0.136618992 of Hangouts is rolling out now via the Play Store.

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