No more group video chats on Hangouts; Android users should use this app instead
Hangouts is Google's cross-platform instant messaging app that allows you to start one-on-one or group conversations, share pictures and videos, and make voice calls. But if you'been paying attention recently, you know that Google has been trying to push users to employ its Meet service for video chats. That is why Google added a link to Meet from the bottom of Gmail users' inbox. And if you open up the Hangouts app following the update to version 36.0.340725045, the first thing you'll see is a banner that states, "Video calls in Hangouts now use Google Meet. That gives you live captions, screen sharing, and more."
The latter statement is misleading because one-to-one video calls are still available on Hangouts group video for now. Group video calls though are no longer offered via Hangouts. When you try to set up a group video chat using the Hangouts video button, a Meet link will automatically be pasted into the compose box. Meet users can have a video chat with up to 10 users at the same time for free and up to 25 for those paying for a Workspace plan. Previously, Google allowed 25 people to engage in a shared video conversation. In exchange for reducing the maximum number of simultaneous Meet participants to 10 from 25, Google is tossing in live captions and screen sharing.
If you still want to use Hangouts for a group video chat session, you can revert back to version 35.0.327050771 to do so. But there is a major caveat. With many phones updating automatically, you just might find that everyone else you know has updated to the very latest Hangout version-you know, the one without group video chat capabilities. And that would leave you without the ability to chat on video with other Hangouts users.
Another option to consider if you need to video chat more than 10 people at no cost is Google Duo. But there has been talk about Google replacing Duo with Meet. So when it comes to group video for Android users, it appears that you should stick to being consumer of Meet.