Google is well-known for their ability to create great products. I don’t think I could live without Gmail, Google Analytics is fantastic too, and what would we do without search?!
However, every now and then some of their products fail. Google Wave and Buzz to name a few. These fortunately were new products that, when we lost them, we didn’t lose much.
Google Talk was another great success from Google. The IM service quickly took over Yahoo and AOL as the messenger of choice for millions. However, on the recent upgrade to Google Hangouts, things just went wrong.
I’m sure someone at Google feels that the complaints we have will work themselves out, but as an early adopter, I hardly ever feel as turned off from a service as I do with Google Hangouts.
Now, I’m not talking about Google Hangouts as a standalone service. That works well. But the integration into Gmail leaves a lot to be desired.
Here are some of the issues I’ve encountered.
When I’m messaging someone, if the email I have open on my screen gets a new message, a notice will appear in front of my chat window. This interrupts my conversation and prevents me from seeing what I’m typing. It’s extremely annoying when the email you have open is an active thread as you ignore one notification, and then another will appear..
No Desktop Apps
I know that Google doesn’t like to make to many desktop apps. They like to keep things in the browser if possible or pop-them out via a Chrome extension. That’s all well and good except that means I need Chrome open if I want to message anyone.
It also only works for the 1st Google account you’re logged into. You can’t use it with multiple accounts or even specify which account you’d like to use it with.
Oddly enough, the last time I tried the Google Hangouts Chrome extension it causes my computer to log itself out randomly! I don’t have a clue how that could happen but as soon as I uninstalled the extension, it stopped logging out without my permission.
Killing access to desktop apps.
Now I get that Google Hangouts has a lot of great features that you can’t just add into desktop apps like Adium, but why can’t there be an API that will allow them to still do basic messaging? Or build their own Hangouts app? From what I understand, Google will eventually turn off the Google Talk service and force all users into Google Hangouts. Or something like that.
No Away Status.
Sorry Google, I’m not always available. When I’m on the phone and someone IMs me, they don’t know that I’m on the phone. Since I can’t set my status to ‘busy’ they just think I’m ignoring them. Same goes if I go to a meeting, I shouldn’t appear to be available when I’m not. Now I have people wondering why I’m not getting back to them when a simple ‘away’ status would do the trick.
When I log out of the iOS app it forgets I ever existed. It doesn’t remember my username and/or password for when I want to log back in; it basically erases me. Why can’t I setup accounts and enable/disable them when I want? That’d be so much more user-friendly. Again, this always on, always around idea is not ideal.
It includes everyone in Google+.
Have you searched Hangouts for one of your contacts only to find a bunch of people you don’t know? It turns out Google Hangouts adds everyone in Google+ to your contact list and will display them when you’re searching for one of your contacts.
I’d like to have only my contacts and anyone using the same domain as my account (if it’s a custom domain) in Google Hangouts. No strangers. Especially since I wouldn’t want to accidentally IM them something that was work related.
Since Google Hangouts includes all of Google+, it has a lot to search through. Numerous times I’ve had Google Hangouts just stall when I was searching for someone. Not only does it take down Hangouts, but it also takes down Gmail since they’re all in one. My choices are to either wait for it to figure things out, or just reload the whole browser tab.
If one of your contacts are not in Google+ they’re named Untitled. Even if you add them to your address book they still show up as Untitled. Seems that Google+ names are everything and your address book is not important.
iOS app is Horribly Slow
I had the iOS app on my phone for a while and it was just slow. I’d get notified of a new conversation and when I opened the app, I wouldn’t see it. It’d take a good 30-60 seconds before that conversation actually showed up. Then it worked fine. That lag is horrible. This has actually gotten quite a bit better since I wrote this post.
Get Better Soon
I want to like Google Hangouts, but Google is making it so hard. There are so many bugs and issues that the usability suffers greatly and so does my productivity.
Google Hangouts is a great standalone app, but merging that into Gmail isn’t going well in my opinion. So badly that I’ve uninstalled the iOS app and went back to just using Adium on the desktop. Since this still works, it’s a great fallback. However, there are issues here as I’m not notified of video calls and there are other missing features.
I hope Google works through the bugs soon, or realize that their usability decisions might not be the best.