Android users have been requesting for an improved Hangouts for some time now. There was a rumor last year that Google is working to make it a better chat client by removing its SMS capabilities. It seems like as a part of that effort, Hangouts will use a peer-to-peer connection when possible.
There was a hint last week from the updated version of Hangouts for Android that it might remove the SMS capabilities in the near future advising the users to switch to Google’s messenger. Some users have already seen a prompt during calls with the updated version saying, “Hangouts will improve quality for future calls by routing audio and video over a direct, peer-to-peer connection, when possible.”
According to the new support page, it is more feasible to directly connect to the person you are calling than routing through Google’s servers. Remember that the direct connection between you and another person reveals both your IP address, using what is possible to approximate your location. However, there is no direct way to look that up in the Hangouts UI. It is suggested that users should initially call through the Hangouts Android app to see the benefit of it.
It is possible that Google is using Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC), an API that the company has long been supporting. It supports browser-to-browser voice and video calling without the need of plugins. Also, it has highly secure encrypting for both the actual contents and the signaling used to initiate the chat.
Hangouts might finally be getting the new and polished features the users have always wanted as there was a rumor that Google is working on an AI-powered chat service. And most interestingly, George Kola, CTO of Voxer, recently joined Google. Voxer is a messaging app with the walkie-talkie features. Maybe those features could be coming to Hangouts.