Google says Hangouts SMS and outbound calls 'coming soon,' later backtracks
A Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) executive confirmed the company's new Hangouts messaging platform will integrate SMS and outbound calling services in the near future--before then distancing herself from the comments.
The standalone Hangouts app--available for Google's Android, Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS and the Web--combines chat, photo sharing and video interactions into one service, rivaling over-the-top messaging efforts like WhatsApp, Viber and BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) Messenger. In a Google+ post Thursday, Google Community Manager for Hangouts and Chat Dori Storbeck wrote "SMS integration is coming soon--it is one of our most requested features!" and "This first version of Hangouts doesn't support outbound voice calls to mobile phone numbers, but calls into your Google Voice number can be answered in Hangouts. Future versions of Hangouts will support outgoing calls along with other Google Voice features."
Storbeck apparently spoke out of turn, however, following her previous comments by posting "Oops! Hi everyone, regarding my SMS comment… We actually have nothing to announce at this time. My apologies."
Storbeck's comments notwithstanding, The Next Web reports that the Hangouts app's Google Play store page details a series of permissions including "Read Your Text Messages (SMS or MMS): Allows the app to read SMS messages stored on your device or SIM card. This allows the app to read all SMS messages, regardless of content or confidentiality" and "Send SMS Messages: Allows the app to send SMS messages. This may result in unexpected charges. Malicious apps may cost you money by sending messages without your confirmation."
Google declined to comment on its plans for Hangouts SMS or what the Google Play permissions specifically cover.
Google unveiled Hangouts Wednesday during its annual I/O developer conference. According to Google Senior Vice President of Social Vic Gundotra, Hangouts "is a list of conversations, not contacts," adding that interactions can last years and can span across multiple devices. "The conversation feels alive," he said. "It really feels like you're in the same room together."
Hangouts poses challenges to Apple's FaceTime video calling service as well as its cross-platform iMessage effort. Hangouts also gives Google a leg up on BlackBerry, which earlier this week pledged to expand Messenger to additional platforms by rolling out native BBM apps for Android and iOS this summer.
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