Google on Thursday released a new update to its Hangouts app for iOS that introduces a handful of new features and a redesigned interface.
"The app has a brand new look and feel, is super easy to navigate, and includes a bunch of performance improvements," said Google's Frank Petterson in a Google+ post that announced the changes. "You can still make free voice and video calls, of course. Or send a quick photo. But we're adding a few more features we think you'll love."
More than 40 "stickers" are new to Hangouts 2.0, which are big, animated emoticons that you can add to any message. "Think of them as emoji, but even more awesome," Petterson said. The updated navigation includes tabs on the bottom to quickly archive conversations, mute messages, send videos, and access your contacts.
You can also embed a map of your current location in messages, as well as record and send short videos up to 10 seconds long to everyone in your conversation. Tapping the shutter button snaps a photo, and holding down the shutter button captures a video. You can share images from your device's camera roll, but you can't yet share prerecorded video.
The new version of Hangouts, available for download now in the App Store, is fully optimized for iPad users, Petterson said. Changes to the iPad app include picture-in-picture video calling -- which supports up to 10 simultaneous users -- and a split-pane design, which lets you both chat and scroll through your contacts or other existing Hangouts.
Hangouts 2.0 is the first major update since it added phone calls late last year, and helps it compete in an increasingly crowded mobile-messaging market.
[Mobile messaging gains momentum. Read Facebook's WhatsApp Buy: 10 Staggering Stats.]
Just last week, Facebook announced its blockbuster $19 billion acquisition of popular messaging service WhatsApp. The app, which Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted wasn't as popular in the United States as it "should be," is particularly hot in Europe, India, and Latin America, boasting more than 450 million active users.
Reports said that Google once offered upwards of $10 billion to purchase WhatsApp, though Google's Sundar Pichai denied that claim earlier this week at Mobile World Congress, calling it "simply untrue."
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