Google Hangouts is a fantastic tool for communication. Not only does it do a great job of handling SMS messages, it can also easily place phone calls, video calls, and more. With all of that power, Google Hangouts does come with one caveat — you have your phone with you at all times, and all of your Google contacts can reach you whenever they want.
Or can they? Did you know that you can actually control who can directly contact you and which contacts require an invite to do so? That's right. You no longer need to worry about all those attempted communications via Google Hangouts piling up. From within the app itself, you can set each one of your Google+ Circles so that they either:
- Can contact you directly
- Can send you an invite
- Can't contact you
By default, everyone in all of your circles can contact you directly. This means Google Hangouts is wide open and the chats and phone/video calls can freely pour in. How do you change that? Believe it or not, it's quite easy — you just have to know where to look.
Let me walk you through the process of configuring various circles in Google Hangouts for one of the contact "security" levels.
- Open the Hangouts app.
- From the main window, swipe right from the left edge of the screen and then tap Settings.
- Tap the Google account you want to configure, and then scroll down until you see HOW OTHERS GET IN TOUCH WITH YOU.
- Tap the Customize invites to see the full list of your circles (Figure A).
Google Hangouts on a Verizon-branded Droid Turbo.
You should think of this in a similar way that you think of a firewall. Set Everyone Else to a "dismissive" mode, and then go through all of your circles and, if necessary, set to "permissive" mode. In other words, set Everyone Else to either Can send you an invite or Can't contact you, and then go through the circles you want to be able to contact you and set them accordingly (to either Can contact you directly or Can send you an invite).
Let's first set Everyone Else to Can't contact you. To do this, tap the entry for Everyone Else and, from the pop-up window (Figure B), tap Can't contact you.
Setting Everyone Else to Can't contact you.
Now that you've set the default, you must go through every one of your circles and set those you want to be able to contact you to either Can send you an invite or Can contact you directly. Here's the catch — remember that, by default, every circle is set to Can contact you directly. If you set Everyone Else to Can't contact you, but you don't change any of your circles, those circles you don't want to be able to contact you will still be able to. So, you do need to make sure and go through each circle.
Of course, setting Everyone Else to Can't contact you means anyone you don't have in a circle (in other words, strangers) will not be able to contact you via Google Hangouts.
One other caveat to this set up is that if you have Google Hangouts configured as your default SMS client, this setup will not affect standard messaging — only contacts within Google Hangouts. This does, however, give you plenty of control over who can contact you through Google Hangouts.
Do you use Google Hangouts? If so, for what? Is it your default SMS client — or a dedicated app for Google messages and calls?
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.