The rumors were apparently true: Google's unified chat platform (widely nicknamed Babel) is launching as the new Hangouts, with new mobile apps to match. The messaging service puts Android, Chrome, Gmail and iOS all on the same page for the first time, focusing the interface on conversations that carry over from device to device. Across the board, you'll find consistent notifications, as well as emoji and shared photo pools that weren't in Google Talk. Contacts are still there, but they're pushed to the side in the mobile view. Live group video is new, too, while text chats have watermarks to clarify who's reading and typing. Everyone gets access to the updated Hangouts today. The Android and iOS apps are available as we write this; Gmail users can hit a "try it now" button, while Chrome users can install an extension. One word of warning: the Android app currently won't run on some tablets, including the Nexus 7.
Google I/O 2013: Hangouts