Get Hangouts To Recognize & Associate Phone Numbers With Contacts

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The new Google Hangouts app has merged SMS with IM conversations. That’s great except for some users, the app now will not recognize when an SMS is received from an existing contact and will show the number it was received from. For an app that was meant to make text messaging and instant messaging easier, this complicates things. The good news here is that this is not a bug, I repeat, this is not a bug. It’s because Hangouts is confused with the state of your contacts and is having trouble finding who the number belongs to. The problem is in fact with your contacts and here’s how you can set things straight.

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Step 1:

Find the contacts or the phone number that Hangouts will not recognize. For me, it was my sister’s number that the app wouldn’t recognize. Note down the number and search for it in Contacts to see who it belongs to (unless you know who it belongs to).

Step 2:

Search for that contact in the contacts app and see how many entries you see for that one person. I migrated from an iPhone to Android a month back and imported contacts through Google. It had gone smoothly at the time but when visited my contacts and searched for my sister’s details I was surprised that they existed as 3-4 different contacts despite existing as a unified whole on my iPhone. If you see a similar situation with contact details for a single person dispersed across different contacts you need to fix it. Open a contact and merge it with the other ones in their name.

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Step 3: 

Return to Google Hangouts and the number that it previously failed to recognize before will now be assigned to the correct contact on your phone but unfortunately, it will still exist as a separate conversation. Go to Google Hangouts settings, tap SMS, and scroll down to toggle the Enable merged conversations option. That’s  all.

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Both IMs and SMS conversations with the same contact will now appeare properly merged. To switch between IM and SMS, tap the hangouts buttons next to the text input field and you will be able to choose whether you want to send the message to their number or to one of the email addresses associated with the account.

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  • This may work in some cases, but in my case there is only one contact entry which contains both the Gmail address and the phone number. Yet Hangouts does not merge the two separate conversations, one via SMS to the phone number, the other via Hangouts to the Gmail address. The defect is hiding somewhere deeper.

    To be honest, I don’t trust the Google programmers assigned to peripheral apps to write good code. I predict we will see hundreds or thousands of defects of a similar kind. The few most awkward ones will eventually be fixed, most will stay with us for a long time. This is based on my experience with Android and the Google apps and services.

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    In my case the linked iCloud+Gmail contacts both had the correct name and number, but for some reason when I received an SMS from him, Hangouts associated the name of an iCloud contact with a totally different number. I got the same SMS in the Gmail web browser interface with the correct contact name attached, so it was definitely some bizarre bug in the iPhone Hangouts app.

    What I ended up doing was going to the Contacts tab in the Hangouts app, searching for that phone number, and then tapping the contact and SMS text message to go to the conversation. When I did that, it sent me back to the same conversation but then it had the correct contact name attached.

    Time will tell whether this is a frequent occurrence. If it constantly happens I’ll probably have to opt out of Hangouts for SMS and just use the Google Voice app to send and receive SMS. I’d still have to use Hangouts for voice calls and I’d prefer to use one app exclusively rather than needing both of them, so… we’ll see.