For over two years now, we’ve known that Google was planning to kill off their classic Hangouts app in favor of opening Google Chat to those without Google Workspace. With the migration set to take place in the first half of 2021, Google Chat is preparing a beta test to open the app for Hangouts users to preview.

About APK Insight: In this “APK Insight” post, we’ve decompiled the latest version of an application that Google uploaded to the Play Store. When we decompile these files (called APKs, in the case of Android apps), we’re able to see various lines of code within that hint at possible future features. Keep in mind that Google may or may not ever ship these features, and our interpretation of what they are may be imperfect. We’ll try to enable those that are closer to being finished, however, to show you how they’ll look in the case that they do ship. With that in mind, read on.

Google Chat “Consumer Beta”

In October, Google shared a rough timeline for the transition from Hangouts to Google Chat, stating that migration would occur in “the first half of 2021.” More specifically, this migration will bring your conversation history, contacts, and more from the Hangouts app forward into Google Chat.

Currently, if you open the Google Chat app on a non-Workspace account — any Google account that ends with @gmail.com or @googlemail.com — it simply tells you that you do not have access to Chat, give or take some exceptions like being invited to an existing workspace.

Google Chat received an update earlier this month to version 2021.01.24, and in it we find that Google appears to be preparing an early beta preview period for the average person who uses Hangouts to switch to the Chat app.

<string name=”consumer_beta_disclaimer_dialog_title”>Welcome to Google Chat</string>

<string name=”consumer_beta_disclaimer_dialog_body”>”Google Chat introduces a new experience and features not found in Hangouts.

Because this is a preview of the new Chat, you might experience bugs and other issues.”</string>

In fact, even if you don’t install the full Google Chat app, you’ll still have an opportunity to test the newer experience. A similar “2021.01.24” update to Gmail includes more tidbits about how this Google Chat beta preview period will work for Hangouts fans.

Try Google Chat in Gmail

“Switching to the Google Chat preview lets you try out the new experience and features.

Because this is a preview, you might experience bugs and other issues.

You can switch back to your old chat setting at any time.”

During the preview period, you should be able to switch back and forth between classic Hangouts and Google Chat, including the addition of Google Chat integration directly into the Gmail app. This should take the form of “Chat” and “Rooms” tabs joining the current mix of “Mail” and “Meet” tabs in Gmail, as first showcased last year.

From the way Google repeatedly describes it, this beta preview period is intended to help make sure that when Hangouts classic finally shuts down, Chat is fully ready to take on the mantle of Google’s primary messaging app. By the time the full migration happens later this year, all of the kinks will hopefully have been worked out for a seamless transition.

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