After Google made the move towards integration between SMS and Hangouts, it seemed pretty likely that future versions of Android would emphasis this “one app to rule them all approach”. That’s why the introduction of a new, basic messenger app with Android 5.0 Lollipop caught many of us a bit off guard.
The new Google Messenger app will ship on Android 5.0-powered devices like the Nexus 6 in addition to Hangouts, giving folks the option to choose whether to integrate SMS into Hangouts or not. For those that are curious enough to try out the app now, the APK has been unofficially made available and seems to work just fine on Android 4.4 KitKat.
As you can see, the app is very minimalistic in design and follows the Material Design guidelines that you’d expect from a new Lollipop app. If you’re coming from a fresh install without imported messages, you’ll have nothing more than a blank screen on the main page, though as you add conversations they’ll populate here. As with many other apps, your contacts with either have an associated photo or a colored circle with a the first letter of their name.
To add a contact, all you need to do is click on the yellow “PLUS” icon found on the bottom-right side of the main screen. In addition to single contacts, the app also supports group messaging as well.
Once you open up a conversation you’ll notice that the toolbar changes color (blue, orange, etc) depending on the contact, and this coloring will also affect the conversation bubbles and more. You’ll also now notice a “phone” icon appears at the top right corner of the toolbar. Clicking on the phone icon will automatically connect you to your default dialer and will begin the call. As for sending a message, you can not only send messages and attachments, you can even take photos directly from within the app.
Bottom-line, the new Messenger app is for those that want a fast, simple experience without all the bells and whistles. For power users, the integration and tools found in the Hangouts app might still make for the better choice but we’ll leave that up to you. What do you think of the new Messenger app, like it or not?