Google is streamlining its chat apps again

Google has a baffling array of chat apps and platforms out there at the moment, so the tech behemoth has decided to try and simplify its approach just a little bit: firstly it's phasing out Google Talk for good by June 26, the Hangouts precursor that really should've been shuttered a long time ago.

Secondly, SMS support is being pulled from Google Hangouts, an app that is now being positioned as more of a business-focused tool for your workplace group chat needs. However, ordinary, non-paying users will be able to carry on using Hangouts (minus the SMS feature) for the time being.

This isn't really a big surprise: messages inside Hangouts have been pushing users towards Android Messenger for SMS for more than a year now, and support for the vintage messaging format might even get added to the Allo app eventually. SMS options in Hangouts will disappear from May 22.

Leaving the labs

Thirdly, some of those weird and wonderful Labs experiments in Gmail are getting removed too, from April 24. Quick Links, which lets you bookmark certain pages in Gmail, and Smart Labels, where incoming emails are sorted automatically, are among those features getting the boot (a more advanced version of Smart Labels is now embedded in the main Gmail apps anyway).

Google says the changes will help it "focus and prioritize" on the features and apps it thinks are more important. While the note was written to users of the G Suite business set of apps, you can expect to see the same updates filter down to everyone.

Google's approach to messaging could certainly use some tidying up, with three Google-made messaging apps available on Android alone. Perhaps one day it will get around to rolling everything into one all-powerful tool, but that day is still a long way off.

David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.