Update 1 (01/15/2021 @ 03:44 PM ET): Google Fi users will have more time to migrate from Hangouts to Google Messages. Click here for more information. The article as published on October 15, 2020, is preserved below.

Google on Thursday provided an update for users who still rely on Hangouts to chat with friends and family. The search giant said in the first half of 2021, Hangouts users will be migrated to a free version of Google Chat — the Slack and Discord competitor currently available to enterprise users.

Google will automatically migrate Hangouts conversations during the transition, along with contacts and saved history. When the transition is complete, the free version of Google Chat will be available as an integrated experience in Gmail and as a standalone app.

Chat will include familiar Hangouts features, such as direct and group messaging, along with new additions, like faster search and emoji reactions. Free Google Chat users will also be able to share and collaborate on files and assign tasks. The free version of Google Chat will still include extra phishing protections as part of Google’s Safe Browsing initiative.

Google Hangouts transition to Google Chat

Because Hangouts will make way for Chat, that means Google will need to make changes to Hangouts for Google Fi users. That includes removing Fi support in Hangouts early next year. Google will instead make Messages its main platform for Fi, so it’s adding some new features in the next few weeks. Google said Fi users will be able to make voice calls and check voicemail from Messages for web, migrate their existing Hangouts conversations, and manage conversations from Messages across devices.

Google is also changing some things related to telecommunications and Hangouts with Google Voice. Later this month, Hangouts Voice users will be directed to the Voice app for text messaging and calling going forward. Voice support in Hangouts will then be removed early next year. Meanwhile, Google said in order to comply with new regulations being introduced in the EU and U.S. in 2021, it’s removing the call phones features in Hangouts. By November of this year, Google will update the group video calling experience in Hangouts with Meet.

Google said that the timing of some of these changes may shift, but with 2021 on the horizon, you may want to start preparing for the changes now.

Update 1: Hangouts Shutdown Delayed for Google Fi users

Back in October, Google finally laid out its roadmap for when it planned to shut down Hangouts. For most users, Google plans to have them migrate to the company’s new platform called Google Chat. That transition is slowly underway, with Chat already gaining support for showing individual Hangouts conversations. For subscribers of Fi, Google’s MVNO, Google plans to have them migrate to the company’s Messages app which supports SMS/MMS and has a web client through which you can send texts, check your voicemail, and make voice calls. While the Messages app has already brought full Fi integration, Google has decided to give Fi users more time to migrate to Messages by delaying when Hangouts will lose key features (via 9to5Google).

Starting in March of 2021, Fi users will no longer be able to use the Hangouts app to send or receive text messages or make or receive voice calls and voicemail. If you haven’t yet started the process of syncing all of your conversations and voicemails with Messages, now is the time to do so. If you wait until after the deadline passes, then you won’t be able to seamlessly transfer your SMS/MMS history to Messages. Rather, you’ll have until September 30, 2021, to manually use Google Takeout to export text messages from Hangouts.

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