Google continues to shake up its messaging tools with the upcoming removal of a popular feature from Hangouts. According to an e-mail sent to GSuite administrators and subsequently posted to Reddit, Google will remove the SMS feature from Hangouts on May 22. Anyone using Hangouts as both a Google messaging app and their primary text messaging app won't be able to send SMS texts after that date.
Hangouts users will be notified of this change via an in-app message starting March 27. You'll be prompted to select a new default messaging app from your list of downloaded apps. If you don't have anything other than Hangouts, you'll be directed to the Google Play Store to download another messaging app. All of your existing SMS messages will not be affected, and they will be available in your new default messaging app.
This just seems needlessly confusing. I'm assuming there's some licensing cost as the reason to do this, at least I hope so, because otherwise this seems to just be forcing users to be aware of underlying technologies they shouldn't need to worry about. For those who have no idea what SMS even is, its the technology used by the carriers to deliver text messages. One of the advantages of smartphone apps have been that they have delivered these messages alongside of various other messaging formats so users don't need to add that to their mental load.
Ben Evans summed this up fabulously in a recent tweet:
The next billion paradox: Android is actually designed for high-end tinkerers and iOS for normal people, but distribution is the reverse
Fundamentally I still don't understand why Google has so many messaging service options.