Messenger from Google is a standalone app to send SMS and MMS to any phone. Oddly, it's not a direct replacement for Hangouts, as it doesn't support internet messaging or VOIP.
Messenger comes installed as standard on devices running Android 5.0 Lollipop and above. But any user can install it through Google Play if they have a device with Android 4.1 and above. But is it worth bothering with?
SMS and MMS reinvented?
Google Messenger is a re-imagining of the stock Messaging app that's pre-installed with most pre-Lollipop Android phones. The app has been given a lick of Material Design paint and bundled with some useful features such as group messaging, audio messaging, emoji support, and photo/video transfer.
These features, of course, almost always come as standard in any messaging app, such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Skype, or Facebook Messenger. So, in this sense, Google isn't doing anything new with its Messenger app. In fact, the app has even less features than its previous Android Messaging app.
What the app does do well is to pull these tools together in an attractive package that makes the process of sending SMS and MMS messages simpler and more enjoyable. Lesser features such as the ability to archive chats, or to block certain contacts from sending you messages help to add to the usefulness of Google Messenger.
The app integrates well with your existing Android contacts, allowing you to quickly access them and start messaging straight away through Messenger's attractive, streamlined interface.
The bold, colorful Material Design user interface fits with the new branding introduced to Google apps after the Android Lollipop update. If you're a fan of this new style, you'll be happy with the way Google Messenger looks.
The bright colors used for headers and text bubbles in chat windows are randomized between chats, and unfortunately there's no way to customize the colors. You're stuck with whatever Messenger decides to give you for each chat. Also, there's no way to add chat background wallpapers, like you can with other messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Viber.
Make you mind up
Messenger by Google is not a viable alternative to either Hangouts or the stock Android Messaging app. Although it looks nice and follows Google's new Material Design style, it adds nothing that you can't already do in Hangouts or Messaging.
If you only send MMS and SMS and you find Hangouts to be a bit convoluted then Google Messenger is worth switching to. I just wish Google would bring these messaging apps together in one neat and rounded package. We live in hope.