We were recently told by a source that has been reliable in the past (they also tipped us off on VoIP integration coming to Voice, which Google confirmed) that Project Fi support/integration would be one keystone feature for the new Google Voice. That feature obviously didn’t launch last week with the redesigned version 5.0 of the app, but we now have reason to believe that it’s still in the plans…
Project Fi users are in an awkward position with the launch of the new Google Voice and the company’s refocus of Hangouts as a business tool. Allo, Duo, and Messenger now live at the forefront of Google’s strategy (Hangouts isn’t even installed by default on the Google Pixel, unless you’re a Project Fi user), which has left Project Fi users clinging to an app that Google seems to be moving away from — at least for the consumer.
While Google wouldn’t directly confirm to us that Project Fi integration is coming to Google Voice, the company did say that there’s a solution (which, in my mind, suggests to us that Google sees this as a problem) in the works for Fi users. Specifically, in regards to Fi support coming to Voice, we’re told that Fi users should “continue to use Hangouts,” but that Google is actively “working on a solution.”
Updating the new Google Voice app (which already supports MMS messaging via web and soon will support VoIP calls) to be the singular home for Project Fi users might make a lot of sense. Project Fi users have already had access to a plethora of Google Voice features: Call, text, and check voicemail on the web, call blocking, access to call & message history, and voicemail transcriptions. They’ve just been mostly accessible up to this point through Hangouts and the Phone app.
The bigger picture to me is that Google is refocusing Hangouts for the enterprise (we’ve even been told that “heavy encryption” is in the works). This future version of Hangouts seems likely to drop the confusing remnants of Voice integration (VoIP being one of those remnants), and Project Fi support — being so directly tied to Google Voice — seems to be another piece of the app that has to move elsewhere. If that’s the case, the sleek new Google Voice app seems to be a fitting home.
As an aside, there’s obviously still the question of how Allo — the supposed replacement for Hangouts on the consumer side of Google’s messaging strategy — manages to reach feature parity with what Hangouts currently offers. We were told before that Allo would make a lot more sense under “Andromeda” (thanks to cross-device syncing a la iMessage and desktop access) but it’s still pretty fuzzy at this point exactly what “Andromeda” is going to be.