Google Hangouts, and Google Talk before it, were once the poor man's iMessages, but a steady number of tweaks have put the Android app on par with Apple's all-in-one service.

The latest update, Hangouts 2.1, finally brings together SMS and Hangout messages into a single conversation window.

There's no longer a need to flip back and forth between texts and instant messages now that they're merged based on contact information.

Google indicated that it will be easy to tell if it's an SMS and Hangouts message and that the contacts list will be broken into two sections: "People you Hangout with" and "Phone contacts."

Other improvements in Hangouts 2.1 include a new home screen widget for quickly bringing up recent conversations, better video call quality and more reliable message performance.

Almost better than iMessages

Google Hangouts has almost been tweaked to perfection. The Android app merges SMS and Hangouts on Google-powered phones and tablets, but it doesn't do the same for computers.

That's something Apple gets right with iMessages, which work across iOS devices and Macs. The latter is really convenient if you're typically working on a computer all day.

Google can best iMessages if its app comes to computers and to iOS. The company has a history of working across all platforms, including iOS, Mac and Windows, something Apple is unlikely to do.

For now, though, Hangouts 2.1 is scheduled to roll out to Android users starting today via the Google Play Store.

  • One of the best Android phones out there is the: HTC One M8