Update: The apps are now live on Google Play and the App Store.
Google today launched its much rumored messaging service live on stage at its I/O keynote and announced the service would be coming to multiple platforms today. While some thought the service would be dubbed “Babel,” Google instead rolled out a standalone app called simply “Hangouts” that will be coming to iOS, Android and desktop later today.
Google execs provided a demo of the app running on Android today, but also gave us a glimpse of the iOS version as pictured above. The demo mostly focused on showing a list of conversations (not contacts) as well as one-on-one and group messaging, photo albums stored in the cloud, and the ability to start text conversations and video calls with contacts in one tap.
As for Gmail:
What does this mean for your Gmail? You now have the option to switch from the current version of chat to Hangouts. Simply click “Try it out” next to your chat list to switch to Hangouts and give your chat an instant facelift (literally!). You’ll now see the profile photos in the order of your most recent conversations. With Hangouts, you’ll also be able to quickly send messages, have video calls with up to ten people at once, and share photos. You can start a conversation with just one friend or even a whole group.
Google made a point of noting that conversations are stored and saved in the cloud, allowing users to have long-lasting conversations and browse a full history that dates back months or years. The app will unify and replace the Google Talk, Google+ Messenger, and the Google+ Hangout apps that currently make up Google’s messaging services.
The service will be launching as a new standalone app called Hangouts for iOS devices, Android, and on the desktop some time today.