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Introducing free voice calls from Hangouts (googleblog.blogspot.com)
487 points by Anon84 on Sept 10, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 207 comments

According to /r/android this also finally brings Google Voice into Hangouts: http://www.reddit.com/r/Android/comments/2fz6hh/hangouts_and...

I haven't seen the update yet to try it, but am hoping I do soon. This is long, long overdue.

All this said - Hangouts on desktop is still so much worse than GChat was - and GChat had free calls too. I'd type a number, two seconds later it would be ringing in the bottom right corner. Now, a Hangout window opens, the Hangouts plugin loads, my CPU goes haywire...

I stand 100% behind your statement. I can't stand to use Hangouts. I remember when you could simply have a video chat plugin installed in Google Chat with HD feature enabled in labs and CPU usage wouldn't be a quarter what a video chat in Hangouts is now. I dream that they still had the option to use the older video chat functionality.

Video chat options in general frustrate me to no end. Skype - at least on Linux - have steadily dropped in quality over the last few years (the old cynic in me wants to blame MS for no particular reason). Back in 2006-2007 I used Skype video chats daily with few issues between the UK and California. These days I have problems getting it to work reliably within London, and have given up on it to let my son talk to his grandmother in Norway.

So I tried Google Hangouts. It's marginally better. But it's still awful, and odds are about 50% that one or the other end of just fails to work (suddenly wants to reinstall the plugin, or just plain refuses to recognize the camera).

It's just incredible to me that a decade after I had reliable, working video chat, things appears to have gotten steadily worse, not better... I have 10 times the bandwidth - or more -, for example, both up and down.

I'll be down-voted, although I solved the problem with: .. FaceTime. If you don't have a mac you can get a ipod touch. That's what I use to talk with my family USA->Italy. Is the only thing I found that is reliable and has a quite good quality.

In the end, FaceTime is only adequate software. There isn't anything particularly annoying about it, and it does what the average user expects.

What makes FaceTime incredible is that no one else on the planet can make anything even close to adequate in that space.

It can be mind boggling to cycle through Skype, Lync, Google Hangouts, and every other piece of chat software on your computer, all failing in bizarre ways, only to think, "Oh yeah. Let's try FaceTime" and have it work.

On a recent trip to the US from the UK my wife and I each used a BlackBerry Playbook with the built-in video chat. It was perfect -- no discernible lag and I was able to talk with the kids with great video and sound quality.

So, perhaps Skype and GV are suffering from over-extended networks? It must be hard to justify investing in better network infrastructure for a free product (or when your revenues are minimal). On that note, I don't get the impression that BlackBerry's network has much of a problem with network load these days...

I'll leave aside the meta commentary on your (unneccessary) downvote comment.

Facetime is what makes it possible for me to stay in touch with my family on the other side of the planet, and that's even if I'm sitting out in a park far from Wifi. It just works, and even if it hiccups once in a while, the reliability is high enough that you just shrug it off with the confidence that it will recover. This is on LTE with good reception.

If I ever move overseas again, I will be purchasing an iPod Touch for each and every older family member before departing. FaceTime works remarkably well.

This is what's so annoying about Apple: why no Android client? How can you hope to have a communications platform that is so severely constrained? That's why so few here barely even know about Facetime. You can't invest in it because it's so limited.

'hope to'? They don't hope to, it exists. 15-20 million FaceTime calls every day: http://www.macrumors.com/2014/02/28/apple-40-billion-imessag...

So 8% of users try it once per day? I'm wondering how that compares to phone, messages, email, whatsapp, Skype, etc? Very poorly, I'd say.

Might also be ISPs introducing traffic management and whatnot.

It should be possible to test and analyze this.

I work for a startup in the commercial video space, and one of the reasons we can compete against such giants is that their software really doesn't work that well... even for people who've paid shedloads for Lync.

I also work in the commercial telecommuting space. Its easy to compete there, because existing solutions are so crusty its laughable. All the voice apps revolve around phone calls and conference calls, things rooted in 1800's ideas about communications.

Try appear.in or one of the many other webrtc providers.

skype on android is really, really bad. it doesn't even bother to tell you if your wifi is turned off. it'll just "ring ring ring ring" then show a message that the person wasn't available.

I use their subscriptions plan to call home from my Nexus 4. Most of the time skype on android shows offline users as online. Sometimes it shows me that I am signed in and online, but nobody could see me till I try to signout and signin multiple times. The worst problem is it reboots the phone frequently whenever i do video calls. Gets updates often, but they never fixed any of these problems.

Worse than that; I've found Skype on Android will actually kill the wifi connection. It's awful.

I don't understand why hangouts has to use so much CPU. I have a top of the line, brand new laptop, and using hangouts never fails to heat it up and get the fans going.

In contrast, a multi-way video chat on http://appear.in has much more stable audio and video quality, somehow doesn't require half of my CPU, and doesn't even require a plugin.

My team is distributed, and we use hangouts every day, so this has not been a one-time experience, and it has been like this for years at this point.

Perhaps this is why:


Instead of hardware accelerated h264 (almost all chipsets have hardware decoding/encoding of h264), they use their own VP8/9 - which is decoding/encoding on CPU

Also the reason why Google Glass can't do Hangouts - not powerful enough for software encoding.

They should just use h264.


is it that costly really? rest of the world is using h264 pretty much everywhere

I believe you can opt out of it. I was annoyed for a while at having Hangouts foisted on me but now (in Gmail at least) I've gone back to the old interface which, while not jazzy, is perfectly functional.

Same here. I tried very hard to transition to Hangouts to get a jump on what will probably be unavoidable at some point anyway, but I had to revert back to the old interface after a few weeks because GV/VoIP is so unusable on Hangouts.

The Hangouts app must be built by Google's worst engineering team. It's terrible on mobile, too. The Play Store and maybe Youtube are probably slower than it, but at least those have an excuse: heavy content/graphics. What's Hangouts' excuse? A few lines of text on the screen and some tiny icons? It's a chat app...it's supposed to be fast, not super slow.

On mobile I dislike all of the kinematics. If you're composing a message and scroll up to quickly reread something, the keyboard will fly off the screen; getting it back requires tapping on a text box ...but now the keyboard is _covering_ part of the message you need to read; got to scroll back up---damn lost that keyboard again.

There's also no way to 1) hide people's avatars: I really don't need 20 visual reminders (one for each message they've sent) of who I'm chatting to; I don't even need 1! 2) hide the emoticon selector: who uses this rubbish? 3) adjust the "people you hangout with": there are 6 tiles of faces (most of them rigmarole-distributing frequent emailers who suck) and the 6 same people are repeated in a list of 10 "people you hangout with"---the 6 same people are repeated in a list of 10 "people you hangout with".


I've been using it for months, took some getting used to but it works great.

If it's any consolation, the new version of it released yesterday seems to have been optimized a lot more than the previous versions. Despite the added functionality, it feels a lot snappier. This is on a Nexus 5, not sure about other/older hardware.

And it is it holistically proprietary inoperable bullshit now. Your messages still get broadcast through their XMPP infrastructure (for now) so I can still use Telepathy with their services, but the UX is shit because Jingle broke amongst other things.

I end up missing incoming calls because of this - it takes 3-5 seconds for the call to be answered from when I click the accept button. It was much better before.

Same here. Someone calls, I press Accept, and it could take up to 10 seconds to actually accept the call. It would open a new window, start loading stuff, and then the call was missed by the time it was ready. How could anything like that get past the QA team?

Somewhat hilariously this change stops any of the text messages from reaching the google voice web app in favor of hangouts (the web app being basically it's only redeeming quality at this point) and there appears to be some weird behavior when texting people through hangouts.

The webapp was the only reason I still bothered to use GV since it's felt like it's been abandoned for years now. It's frustrating how great this could have been especially with how early it originally came out, but I don't think it's worth it anymore - still no MMS (therefore no groupchat support). No notice of any of those failing either.

People are better off just using iMessage even though it isn't cross platform than dealing with this.

The two benefits I can still think of are that it's easy to switch carriers/numbers since your GV number is an abstraction and if you're out of the country temporarily you can still get texts to your American GV number. Really though FB/Whatsapp and a billion other widely used chat solutions have solved this and people in the US don't switch networks/numbers that often.

Surprisingly enough, GV for iOS was just updated:

- Updated user interface to match iOS7 guidelines - Bug fixes and performance enhancements - Support for Google Voice integration in Hangouts

How about updating on their own platform first to meet their own design guidelines. I'm really disappointed by how Google hooks up to their products and then kills them! This seems like Google Voice still has a pulse, but for how much longer?

A Google product looks ground-breakingly great when it comes out, but then gets more-or-less abandoned with few subsequent releases, and slowly disintegrates?

Yeah, that's what they do.

It actually wasn't a Google product initially. It was GrandCentral. I've been using it since 2006. It's still the best at what it does.

Hangouts on everything is much worse that gchat was, mobile included, sadly

GChat in Gmail still does voice calls as you described them. I use it all the time.

Not if you upgraded to hangouts.

Hangouts still has it, it's just different. Click the search button, then click the Phone button.

You can still revert back to the old GChat interface and get the old (better) VoIP functionality back.

Seriously, my battery life plummets when I'm in a hangout from the heavy CPU usage.

According to that thread this update breaks GV functionality (texting from GV website and texting from Hangouts). Seeing as texting from the webapp is the only reason I even have GV, looks like i'll be ditching that number once they kick everyone off GV for good.

But GChat can not work in Chrome 64 bit... I hate Desktop hangout. Whenever i want to make a call, i have to go to IE11... oohh google....

i embrace this change so now i can make call using my Nexus 7. awesome. it's like having another phone.

This [1] seems to indicate that incoming Google Voice sms messages will appear in hangouts, but I'm not seeing it - can anyone confirm that this is the case? I don't see any settings that would affect this either.

[1] http://techcrunch.com/2014/09/10/google-hangouts-gets-deep-g...

The articles mentions "v2.3, rolling out over the next few days" - I'm still on 2.1, so I don't see it either.


It appears as though just installing the APK doesn't get you all of the Google Voice integration -- you need to wait for some server-side changes to your account as well. (Discovered this after a frustrating hour or so of trying to get GV features to work...)

I'm not running stock, CyanogenMod 10.1.

That said it successfully called my desk phone, and I could successfully call hangouts, but after both the app crashed, and every subsequent launch after that.

Yup. It ses Google might be revisiting their lack of interest in Google Voice, as the iOS app has just seen a significant update as well: https://neosmart.net/blog/2014/google-voice-finally-gets-som...

Why has Google had such a miserable time implementing a usable voice calling service? It's seems relatively straightforward (on the front-end, at least) and yet we have a stream of poorly conceived offerings.

And what a stupid name for a core communications platform.

Google Talk and Google Voice in Gmail were/are a great voice calling service. Hangouts is still missing a ton of features compared to google talk, although this feature brings back one of them. I still have Hangouts disabled in favor of the old Google Talk interface on my main Gmail account so that I can see a buddy list, see logged in status, and make phone calls.

The gmail stuff is too ephemeral for me. Needs to be an app.

I don't think audio/video goes with email/chat. I think that's there's where Skype might have messed up and ceded mobile to other players.

I don't understand. I already use Hangouts to make free calls on iOS.

Yes, and when it was announced for iOS last year, they said the Hangouts-Voice integration on Android was "coming soon". It seemed to have been planned for Google I/O this year, but they ended up having it delayed until now for some reason.

Oh well, their Android and iOS Hangouts apps are now mostly at parity now.

Worse, to receive calls via Hangouts (web browser) you have to join Google+ which is complete b.s. If there's anything worse than Hangouts it's Google+. At least Hangouts is slowly getting better.

This has been available on iOS for a long time, which I found to be really, really strange, given that you would think Android would be the platform where they'd want to put their more advanced features.

It isn't half bad, though -- the call quality, even when the call terminates in an actual phone number, exceeds that of cellular by a good margin, due to what I assume is a much better bitrate being used. And it works even if you don't have a Google Voice account. This is nice, because I can fire it up and make a phone call to a customer (I work for an MSP) without giving away my cell phone number. This is important to me because if all my customers had my cell number, I'd have to change it constantly or never have peace.

edit BTW, some pitfalls of this I have discovered. Depending on how well your cell handles handoffs between Wifi and LTE, your call may be dropped as you walk away from a Wifi hotspot. It works over 3G, but not well. The ringer for Hangouts on iOS is almost impossible to notice, so if you get an incoming GV call, good luck with that. I have had a good number of randomly dropped calls that I could not trace back to a cause. If you get an incoming REAL phone call on your real phone number, Hangouts (at least on iOS) immediately boots you out of your Hangouts call, even if the Hangouts call is on Wifi. (With Verizon, voice call kills LTE data stream, so this is to be expected, but with Wifi... not to be expected.)

Are we to assume that with this update, we can finally get rid of the old "Google Voice" app to do text messaging and playback voicemail?

For my use case, I ditched my iPhone 4S last year and got a Retina iPad mini with a prepaid Verizon data plan. It's pretty good, though there needs to be better integration between Hangouts and iOS. For example, if I get an incoming call notification, it sometimes will not automatically open Hangouts to receive the call. It would take me to the Home screen, then I have to open Hangouts in hopes that I can answer the call in time. If iPad's locked, then I have to act fast to enter the passcode and launch Hangouts manually.

This many not really be a problem with Hangouts than it is that iOS doesn't support deep integration with 3rd party telephony, so that the experience is no different from receiving a native phone call on an iPhone. Other small complaints are that the push notification (incoming call) sound persists for a few seconds after the call's connected, and that it only shows me the phone number of the incoming call and doesn't display the contact's name if it's in my contacts.

Considering I don't use the phone much, and have saved a lot of money by not subscribing to a smartphone plan, this overall was a good experiment. But I'll be going back to an iPhone soon because it's been a burden carrying an iPad everywhere for the past year. With Wi-fi calling now available in iOS8, I'll probably try out T-Mobile's test drive and if the coverage is good enough in my area, will probably sign up for it since they have the cheapest plans.

id much more like to have voice calls on the gvoice app... hangouts is mostly useless bloat for me. that cant even uninstall (buy a google unlocked phone to avoid carrier bloatware, only that now google is the carrier with bloatware and all)

Unfortunately, as far as I can tell you still need to dedicated GV app. It was however just updated today:

- Updated user interface to match iOS7 guidelines - Bug fixes and performance enhancements - Support for Google Voice integration in Hangouts

Voice calls via hangouts has been possible on android this whole time too. Just start a video call, then turn off video and speaker. This should have been a trivial addition years ago. I can only assume it was omitted for some business reason.

Handful of Android apps (WeChat, KakaoTalk etc) already had this feature. It's just Hangout that was late.

My personal opinion is that when the call terminates in an actual phone number, the voice quality of Skype now beats Google hangouts.

Until Hangouts provide the ability to properly control one's visibility, I Will. Not. Use. Them. Full. Stop.

It's somewhat amusing to see Google finally reintroducing functionality which worked perfectly well in GChat years ago. But sad when I reflect on how I now spend so much less time using the Google ecosystem, thanks to their constant dismantling (Reader), deprecation (GChat), divestment (Sketchup), and defacing (Gmail/maps UX/UI) of software which I once relied upon. Google is still doing many things right; why are they consistently getting certain things so wrong?

Out of curiosity, did you happen to pay for any of those things you are complaining about?

Edit: To folks down voting... That is totally fair, this was a useless negative comment on my part.

Regardless, it seems unnecessary to avoid using a product that it might get changed.

Actually, yes. I paid for Sketchup and for extra storage space on gmail / drive. I also paid for Google Apps for Business for two of my startups. My disgruntlement isn't because I'm upset that I didn't get what I paid for, but because Google's practices have become primarily damaging to themselves: I don't think it is helping them win eyeballs.

Personally, I date this to the announcement that they would be putting "more wood behind fewer arrows".[1] Prior to that, Google's product offerings had been comprehensive but scattershot -- but most of their individual products were lean, elegant, and very effective at what they did. By putting "more wood" into those products, they've somehow fallen into a very old-world fallacy of software development: the idea that quality scales with manpower. But overloading a team with software engineers doesn't produce better software -- just bloated software. As somebody who is generally an admirer of Google's, I find this unfortunate.

1: http://googleblog.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/more-wood-behind-fe...

When you sign up to use a "free service" it doesn't mean you waive the right to complain about the quality of that service. This is especially true when you come to depend on that service, based on the provider's advertised claims of how awesome that service is.

Google of course promotes its services as awesome and excellent. That's fine, but nobody should be surprised when users evaluate those claims against their own real experiences and everyday usage of those services.

Fine, but I wish they'd stop breaking some of the core features in hangouts. Since fairly recently, non google users are unable to get into video hangouts via new-style (non /_/calendar/) google calendar created links. Uberconference integration doesn't consistently work. Screenshare (since the plugin was phased out) doesn't work in chromium/ubuntu, but does in firefox. I've reported all of these issues in the product forums, but haven't seen resolution on any of them.

I know google isn't "into QA", but for such a core product it's remarkably flaky.

I honestly just wish Google would stop breaking core features in any of their applications.

Maybe it's just me, but I've had this functionality on the iOS version of Hangouts for a while (I already have Google Voice). Outgoing phone calls from Hangouts show my GV number as caller ID. Incoming calls also ring on my Hangouts app. I did not know that that wasn't available for Android users...

Anyway, it's very handy. I have a US Google Voice account, but live abroad. Calls from hangouts are the primary way I talk to my friends and family back home. Wifi or a very strong 4G signal is required, 3G doesn't really cut it.

Yes, amazingly, this has been available on iOS and not on Android.

Maybe GOOG didn't mind testing the beta on iOS users?

Yeah, been using it for maybe half a year. Also have Google Voice — maybe that was a prerequisite?

Seconding Hangouts as a really great solution for travelers. Bonus tip: if you're going away for a while, transfer your cell number to Google Voice and avoid the mess of having everyone update your phone # in their contacts.

That was my thought also - I've been using this with and without GV (different accounts). I'm pretty sure it also worked in Google Apps before too.

In Android, GV has always been very tightly integrated, so I'm not sure there is a real change here.

Not just you. I was traveling internationally the last few weeks and was using the phone calling in my iOS hangouts app the entire time! So, this announcement must be either slightly belated, or they've been testing it on iOS beforehand?

Didn't this used to work fine with Google Voice and Google Chat? Then they broke it, and now it's fixed?

Lately, Google Hangouts has been giving me abysmal results when talking to my parents in the US. The video freezes every minute or so, and even voice only doesn't work so well. It used to work much better.

The Google Voice app still did a traditional cellular call to my knowledge. You had to get a third party app like GrooVe IP in order to make a data call via the Google Voice system.

They had a phone system built into Gmail's web interface, which IIRC could be treated the same as any other forwarding phone in GV. So when someone called me, it'd ring on my computer and on my phone, and I could answer either of them.

I don't recall personally placing any calls from the Gmail interface, but I think the functionality existed.

The GMail functionality appears to still be there. I think OP was referring to the Android app Google Voice.

Ah, I assumed he was talking about calls placed via the Chat interface in Gmail. I guess Google Chat has an Android app then?

There was a Google Talk app that was replaced by Hangouts.

The call out from Gmail is still present.

Good to know. I still have Google Voice, but I've more or less stopped paying attention to its development... but maybe I'll use that call-from-Gmail feature.

iOS client is abandoned (it's the only app I have that hasn't been updated for iOS 7), and Google blocked access for the 3rd party clients (killing GrowlVoice, which was better than any of Google's clients, and which I paid money for). Not to mention MMS still doesn't work, so any group texts or pictures sent to me disappear into the ether and make me look like an antisocial curmudgeon who never responds to anything. Blah.

I paid $20 to port my number in, but I'll be moving it back out to a real carrier next time I'm switching phones/plans around.

Missed my window to edit parent, but the iPhone client finally got an iOS 7 update today, alongside the new version of hangouts. Maybe I won't write it off yet after all. Yay!

EDIT: New version is designed for tall screens, and does not hold up well on the 4S and earlier.


The keyboard and input box are basically a fixed size, and then out of the leftover space they've used more than 2/3s to tell me who I'm talking to (twice). The remaining little stripe has enough room to display a single line text, or two if you don't mind the name/time getting chopped off.

Is it? I used to use it, but one day it mysteriously switched from "you can place phone calls through gmail!" to "oh, you want to make a phone call? You need to install our browser extension", which I never did.

Yeah, I have the extension installed. Is it not available anymore?

Yes. They are re-announcing it as if it is a completely new feature.

They are merging their different messaging services in Hangouts.

Just in case anyone else was wondering what the most expensive rate is...

  Array.prototype.slice.call($$('td')).sort(function(a, b) { return parseInt(a.textContent.replace(/\D+/g, "")) - parseInt(b.textContent.replace(/\D+/g, "")); }).slice(-1)[0].parentNode
Satellite Service - Thuraya $7.25 per minute

Huh, I would've thought it was Iridium.

Shameless plug: if anyone is interested in helping a startup test out their VoIP infrastructure, let me know (email in profile) and I'll hook you up with a free SIP trunk you can use for a while for both domestic and international calls. Conversational traffic only please, no automated dialers of any kind. To be used with any SIP client of your choice.

I may be interested for some international calls..

"it’s free to call numbers in the U.S. and Canada"

It's great that expensive international calls are a thing of the past by now but is this really the right way to go? I'm in the UK - do I have to pay international rates to call UK numbers or will I just not be able to call from the UK 'yet'?

You'll pay international rates, sadly.

It's annoying they're not rolling out to more countries but then again, I can't really complain - I still get to call any number in the US for free and I use my regular operator for local calls.

I suspect that this is because calls to numbers in the US and Canada are paid for by the receiver, and calls in most other countries are paid for by the caller.

Have you checked the actual Hangout rates? The "international rate" I'll pay for Belgian numbers is lower than what I'm paying locally.

I'm from the UK and have tested this out. From what I see, you have to pay international rates to call UK numbers. I'm keeping it on my phone as a "just in case", but I definitely won't be using it on any regular basis.

Hell, we can't even get proper google voice here in Canada. I can't actually get a Google Voice phone number here.

Free in price perhaps, but I'm not sure how readily I'm going to start using this. Call me paranoid but voice calls are probably the one part of my life right now that Google don't have access to. I just don't know how I feel about handing another piece of information over to them. It's not even that it's Google - I'd say the same thing for any other corporation trying this. I removed Facebook from my phone for this very reason. Just makes me feel that little bit uneasy.

You should know it's an open secret now that the NSA has racks of hardware at telecom data centers which record your calls and has for a while. On the other hand the big corps don't care unless they can profit from it. Privacy by apathy.

Certainly this makes it easier on the government if they really wanted your calls.

At least you get 1024 bit encryption end to end with google

It's really sad that Google took all that direction with Hangouts.

Now requesting any bug fixes for federated Google Talk is just pointless. Google completely ignores them under excuse that "Hangouts is the way now".

For example there is no hope they'll fix server to server encryption which they don't provide in Google Talk federation, which cut off all contacts from there since a lot of servers now make such encryption mandatory.

Finally. Now when I'm in my basement I can at least wifi-call my family from my cellphone instead of having to open up my damn laptop to call from a Chrome gmail browser tab.

You could have been doing this for some time now. I have by using something like TalkATone or GrooveIp.

I did, in fact, use one of them for some time. Then it was discontinued, because Google killed the ability to utilize the number through their API.

I wish Google would take a second to try their own iOS dialer in real-life scenarios:

1) Paste an international number like +34 911 111 111 from the web to Hangouts: it gets pasted as 34911111111, losing the +

2) They don't follow the standard text input element, so it's not possible to go to the beginning of the line and add a +

3) ... now you're stuck with app switching and TYPING NUMBERS IN, NUMBER BY NUMBER

There's that and then there's the horrible Hangouts video chat experience. I can't count how many hours I've wasted trying to explain other people how to join a call or share their screen before giving up and doing a voice call or skype.

Please please please don't screw up Google Voice.

Tap on Send Message or Start a Call

  "Type an name, email, number or circle"
me: ok, [home landline number]

  Find on hangouts: [Home landline number] is not 
  on hangouts, would you like to invite via SMS?
me: wtf.

[edit -- it appears that I still haven't been gifted with the new Hangouts.]

Beware to everyone setting incoming Voice calls to ring in Hangouts. YOU NEED TO DISABLE THIS FEATURE IN VOICE AT THE SAME TIME, or your phone will ring in two different apps, and continue ringing in the second one even after you answer the call in the first one (no matter whether that's the Android Phone app or Hangouts). This embarrassed me on a business call today.

I can install the dialer, but can't seem to find the 2.3 upgrade from 2.1.2. You'd think this would work on a Nexus 4. EDIT "To get started on Android, just grab the new version of Hangouts (v2.3, rolling out over the next few days),"

Why release the dialer in the play store if it requires a yet to be released updated hangouts version?

Google often does rolling releases.

It would be good if they would better manage dependencies with those, so that if you can install the Dialer from the Store, you can also install the version of Hangouts on which it depends.


Why are we paying for ginormously expensive cell phone bills again? With a wifi connection, you can now:



Send MMS (think Snapchat)

Do everything else smartphone-wise.

I know a few things that might run into issues - you can't take a call while on the road without cell service. GPS would be a no-go. Things like Google Maps and Nike Running wouldn't work.

But aside from that.... what good reasons still exist for having a cell phone bill?

> But aside from that.... what good reasons still exist for having a cell phone bill?

Coverage. Cell phones are much longer range than wi-fi.

For instance, you couldn't make a wi-fi call out of your car without using the cell network. So if your cell phone is connected to the net in your car then you're using the cellular modem, not the wifi one.

I think widespread 3G is making the range less of an issue now. I can see providers - third party or not - using existing cellular networks offering data-only plans that make this far more feasible.

You'd just be exchanging your 'cell phone bill' with a 'data plan bill'. The phone company really doesn't care if you stick that SIM in a tablet or in a phone.

From the phone company's view there are only data networks, voice networks are dying out. Voice is just another form of data.

You would think they only view it as data networks!

Instead, Verizon for example, likes to charge per minute, text message, and media message if you are not on an "unlimited" (which is actually limited unless you are truly grandfathered in from an unlimited plan)

I think a lot of people would welcome a 'data plan bill' only and get rid of the nickel and diming

Of course they do. That's abusing peoples misunderstanding of how this all works under the hood. The whole notion of 'air time' makes 0 sense with a cell phone, the phone is off the air more than 90% of the time even while a conversation is in progress.

Widespread is one of those relative terms... finding a carrier that understands people use their phones outside of population centers has always been a challenge for me.

Fair point. I'll add that carriers also selectively drop speeds for certain mobile users based on arbitrary data caps and, in some circumstances, type of phone. Ex: My Blackberry inexplicably loses speed after the first week of the billing cycle.

data-only plans solve all issues, we don't need "talk" or "texts" to be included. Just carry around a "hotspot" (it get's hard when you have a family plan since it would be to expensive to buy multiple hotspots.

Been able to do that for a _long_ time.

CuSeeMe came out in 1992, and Email has been around since the early 60's. Yes; now we have 'nicer' versions of these features, and internet connectivity is almost ubiquitous.

You can offload Maps by downloading geographic areas to limit the amount of connectivity you really need.. But ya. GPS is still _HORRIBLE_ on my Android.

Anyways; my point is: All this technology has existed for a long time. Once people started getting broadband speeds at home 'phones' could have been made completely irrelevant.

The reason is; Cable / Phone industry oligopolies.

"what good reasons still exist for having a cell phone bill?"

Ultra high interest rate subprime loan to buy a phone.

Can't afford a once time charge of $599 to buy a phone? Save tons of money by paying $100/month on a 24 month contract!

Based on your post you would be very interested in some of the services republic wireless offers. I've been a customer since the very earliest beta days, first wave and all that. RW used to have legendary issues with MMS (I don't use MMS so I don't care)

If, like many people here, you have a wifi signal 90% of the time, you shouldn't have a large cell phone bill. Get a prepaid plan from, say, Page Plus Cellular. Or get their $12/month plan. It's nice to have the cell network as a backup, but it shouldn't be costing you too much.

You mean, besides all those good reasons you listed. Wifi is far from ubiquitous.

Well, this took a while. It's been the most frustrating experience having Hangouts since it rolled out, because of this exact issue: I based everything on GrooveIP at the time, having a small voice plan but unlimited data. Then Hangouts showed up and everything became messy (I still hate hangouts, putting SMS and web chat at the same place is very confusing for the average user)

I wrote this a bit more that a year ago about how all of Google's products are becoming too complicated: http://oneurl.me/google-my-mom-cant-use-your-new-products

This is all linked to the Google+ spirit: Trying to make things work when they clearly don't.

The GV/hangouts app hasn't been rolled out on my phone yet, but I'm looking forward to see what complications it creates :)

> (I still hate hangouts, putting SMS and web chat at the same place is very confusing for the average user

Apple and WinPhone do this fine and it's an excellent idea in a world where SMS is overpriced that the app should automatically look for free ways to get the message to the target seamlessly.

I look at Hangouts the same as I look at Plus - great idea to integrate the myriad things into one place and consolidate a zillion balkanized Google products... but Google just isn't good at doing that.

I wouldn't call Apple's implementation perfect. If you switch to a non-Apple phone, you stop receiving texts from iPhone users completely (and silently).

> Apple and WinPhone do this fine and it's an excellent idea in a world where SMS is overpriced that the app should automatically look for free ways to get the message to the target seamlessly.

Smartphone plans with unlimited text and limited data with a high surchage for overages are easier to find than ones with limited SMS and unlimited data, so its not really clear that "SMS is overpriced" anymore, especially when compared with data.

Wifi is free and Hangouts messages are tiny anyways. The bigger concern is avoiding accidentally sendning a message to a user who isn't connected to Hangouts through their primary device - I've often found Hangouts messages waiting for me on my tablet at home.

> Wifi is free

In places that have free WiFi (or where you've already paid for it), WiFi is free or at least has a zero marginal cost per byte. But that's usually not everywhere people use phones.

Most of the people I contact are way less reactive on hangouts (if they ever look at it) than they can be through SMS. I've been a few times in the situation where I realized that I was contacting them through hangouts involuntarily, and that's why they weren't answering. I've never had a Windows phone or IOS, so I don't know how they do, I just hope that it's easier to use

I can't speak for Windows Phone, but iOS displays messages from iMessages -- their private messaging service -- almost identically to normal SMS. (There are some subtle indicators of which one's being used, but it's not obviously different.)

Oddly, the "official" messaging system baked into WinPHone 7 was actually Facebook messages. It didn't switch-over between FB and SMS messages silently, but it did intertwingle the messaging thread between the two platforms and there was a toggle to select which you were using to contact them.

Dunno what they do in WP8.

Is this still possible from gchat? That used to be (and possibly still is) an option if I recall correctly.

Gchat is now called Hangouts.

No, Hangouts is a replacement for Gchat, with a different feature set. There are some new features, but communication with non-google XMPP users is being dropped (so as to lock in users as much as possible). That's one a the main reasons mean people avoid it - since it would mean loosing contact with many users.

It is actually still available in Gmail - you can opt out of Hangouts. For now.

So did they take the ability away and then bring it back or was it persistently available?

I have no idea. The gchat/gmail/hangout integration has been confusing me for many months. To this day I'm never really sure where I'm signed in to any of them or just some of them or none of them.

I tried to look at the details but couldn't find out, so may be someone has the answer. Do I need to have a google+ account to use hangout or my gmail address is fine ? I just don't want a g+ account and don't want to be tricked into creating one by mistake.

I'm not sure I understand why you don't want your account to have a private G+ page. Why would you miss out on a service you like because you don't want to have to not use another one?

Because I don't like to feel forced to create an account for a company to simply inflate their number of user for a service a absolutely don't want to use (G+). I have no FB, no twitter and no G+ as a personal choice. If hangout requires G+ then I'll pass. I'm happy to pay for a service with dollars but not with my personal data.

Last time I checked Hangouts required G+. It was the only reason I kept my G+ account.


Can this hand off between Wifi and data? Multipath TCP?

Who needs a voice plan now?

You can also receive calls on your Google Voice number in Hangouts. This means that if you have data service, you can make and receive calls.

It seems the best argument for a voice and SMS plan nowadays is for traveling in areas where data coverage is poor or spotty.

IMO voice over data still has plenty of caveats and issues - not to mention spotty coverage means that there are plenty of areas where you'll have a <3G data connection but still have crystal clear voice reception.

How do I not get a voice plan? (tablet aside) Nearly all decent data plans (in the US at least) have a mandatory unlimited voice/SMS bundled.

Several carriers offer them and the ones that do will win price-sensitive customers.

T-Mobile: http://www.t-mobile.com/cell-phone-plans/mobile-internet.htm...

U.S. Cellular: http://m.uscellular.com/uscellular/plans/data-only-plan.html


Also, T-mobile offers free international data in many, many countries. This may offer a cheaper option than international voice calls for callers with traditional plans.

T-Mobile has a $30/month 5G 4G data, unlimited text, 100 voice minutes plan available, but you can only activate at Walmart or on T-Mobile.com




I have Brightspot, which is a pre-paid MVNO on T-Mobile, and it has been my experience that I cannot use my Google Voice number for voicemail like I could with a post-paid account, and I am experiencing that a lot of the short-code messaging services can't reach me, either. I haven't tried sending an SMS to a short-code service, but my suspicion is "no" on that, too.

Also, and this may be T-Mobile wide, I am experiencing that they are routing all voice traffic over the data line, which means poor coverage now results in ch-op-py dr-op-ou-t speech just like a bad SIP line would. I tried to make a call last weekend and the other end sounded just like a modem it was so bad.

Just caveat emptor.

Go to a store with tablets on display compatible with Verizon LTE (or borrow one from a friend). Activate a SIM on the Verizon network, data only, for the tablet. Pop the SIM into your phone and presto, data only plan that Verizon can't do anything about (Thanks to Google's involvement in the bidding process for the LTE spectrum).

I've been using this on Ubuntu Desktop for several months instead of the older GTalk. It works great for plain numbers too, just click in the field to give it the focus and type or paste in your plain number to dial.

I'm using a sip provider with much better international call rates than this, however I understand that free calls in the US is really good. I don't have contacts in the US though.

I'm using voipstunt.com now with qutecom (after I really fed up with Skype) but there are many similar providers. I'm making phone calls 0.01 EUR/min + VAT to mobile in Hungary (where I live) which is not free but still much better than other providers here.

Also I could bind my phone number so others can see my number when they receive my calls so they can call me back. I don't know if hangouts handles that.

How's the quality of your provider? I've been using MegaVOIP (also fed up with Skype) and it's getting terrible.

It's usable for conversations.

This is all headed to one login for all your email, sms, chat, etc. Gmail, Hangouts, Voice are all converging. Communication is far more valuable from a data science (aka marketing) standpoint than "social." Who you have as a "connection" on any network is nearly meaningless now, however who you actually talk to is very valuable information. This is why (not trying to start a political discussion) NSA stores meta data about who people talk to on the phone.

I've been running without a full wireless plan for a little over a year now. I just connect my phone to the MiFi I have for work and route calls to a Google Voice number through a privately-run SIP server. Using SIP was always a little spotty and inconsistent, so I'm looking forward to trying out the Hangouts calls.

If you're tired of paying wireless carriers $90/month I think this makes data-only solutions much easier to use now.

Where are you paying $90/mo for a wireless plan? Thanks to T-Mobile, rates for all other carriers have come down too and unlimited minutes are very easy to obtain.

I pay $22 per line for my mobile, with unlimited minutes - last month I used 2200 minutes personally on my line and my family used close to 5000. All included.

I've only used google voice for the incoming calls and voicemail features. Hopefully those don't get lost in the shuffle.

> you can make voice calls from Hangouts on Android, iOS and the web.

How do I get to google hangouts on the web, and use it to make free calls? I can't even find a google hangouts on the web, googling for it just sends me to things suggesting I download an app.

Gmail. Right hand side.

ha, and there's a little phone icon, indeed!

Very nice. There are times I have wifi but no phone, and need to make a quick US phone call.

I'm not sure most people know the sidebar of gmail as "Google Hangouts for the web", rather than "the contacts list in the sidebar of gmail", but okay then!

There's also a Chrome Add on which will drop a little icon in your system tray, which clicking brings up a window in the bottom of your screen which you can start calls with as well.

All my devices are incompatible with Hangouts Dialer. Is the dialer only for Google Voice users. I can call US from international locations without GV number and I have wanted this on phone for so long. Does anyone have any information?

It also looks like they finally updated Google Voice for iOS 7. You know, a week before iOS 8 is released.

Hey I'm happy though! This means all my apps finally have the design of iOS 7.

I hope they have fixed the notification bug that plagued the previous version.

This is great and comes just in time for me. I'm close to my monthly minutes limit and have resorted to using Hangouts and Skype, where I still have some credits remaining. Now it'll be a no-brainer, if the calls are free.

Not sure I get it....didn't Hangouts already do this? I've been making outgoing calls from Hangouts for months, at least. Edit: ooooohhhh, this is just Android catching up to the rest of us. Got it.

I was really hoping the Google Voice app for iOS would get another update, but that seems even more unlikely now.

Sadly, I cannot use my main gmail account with hangouts, as I don't want to create a google+ account for it. Oh well.

I eat my words. Today I was pleasantly surprised to see that Google finally made an update to the iOS Google voice app.

I would rather audio text message. I want something like Glide, but without video. Sometimes a txt doesn't do it, but I don't want to enter into the time-consuming ceremony of a phone call/voicemail.

My company, my family, and my friends all use Voxer for this. It's a great free push-to-talk style chat app, and we love the hybrid a/synchronous model of communication.

> it’s free to call numbers in the U.S. and Canada, and the international rates are really low

So is it free to call a US number from another country, too? Or only if you call from inside US?

It's free to call US and Canada from anywhere in the world. It just uses your data.

Weren't the calls already free on Google Voice for years?

It wasn't integrated with Google Hangouts / Gmail Chat. (well it was before they migrated from the old chat to Hangouts).

This might be premature. I still can't use Hangouts to make voice-only calls, and I end up going back to its predecessor over and over.

When I try to use Hangouts for ordinary phone calls, the system assumes I want a video chat, and can't seem to understand that I want to use my USB headset, not the microphone on the video camera and the system speakers, for a voice-only call. I've never been able to train the system to default to the USB headset and leave the video camera out of the equation.

I'm going to try the new version on principle, but I have serious doubts.

I wonder if this is why I haven't been getting notifications for text messages on my Google Voice number for the past couple of months.

I've been making free calls from the Hangouts app on my iPhone for many months. What's new about this?

I read the post nothing jumps out at me.

Introducing the simple rebranding/reworking of Google Voice into Hangouts.

(the same 'free calls' have been on Google Voice for years)

Google Voice has not made VOIP calls from your phone. This is a new feature. Before, it made calls with your google voice number but using your phone's minutes

Fair enough. They were from my desktop only or with a third-party app on my iPhone.

Its more of an integration than a "rebranding". Hangouts has a lot of things that were never part of Voice.

http://g2m.me/ - GoToMeeting's new WebRTC Free product is decent.

This is new? I've been using Hangouts on my iPhone as the only way I make calls for over a year now...

Why is this front page? Facebook has had free voice calls in their messaging app for almost a year now.

tinfoil alert

your data will flow through google's RTP proxies (see STUN/TURN). Probably in US.

Introducing free full voice capture and voice analysis via your favorite NSL.

This is the best! Only a data connection will be needed now for everything.

Does this mean us European peons can finally use Google Voice...?

We could use Voice since some time ago but without Free calls. Now we have an additional feature VOIP which you get calls between Hangouts users for free.

Now, when will they re-enable hangouts on google glass?

Not in the UK as per usual. Thanks Google.

Goodbye Skype! You won't be missed.

Yup. How would Skype fight this?

Support, premium features, trust, and non-North American markets.

I'm a reasonably happy Skype user with numbers in a couple of countries and an active subscription. It'd take a lot to get me to switch - my usecase is more expensive/not possible with hangouts. Not to mention that Google seems to always find a way to fuck things up (I have [had?] Google Voice credit but couldn't get paid calls connected in the past).

Skype works, has customer support (?), can sell me things that I want like phone numbers, SMS messages etc. Skype also has some trust because it's their core business and they can't decide to stop offering telephony services one day.

I'd be surprised if a significant portion of Skype's profit came from US-based national calls; and there's nothing overly compelling here for the rest of the world.

To me, this seems like more of an attack on the telecommunications companies, because customers on wifi aren't going to be using precious minutes any more.

Skype is available on more platforms, including Blackberry, Windows Phone, OS X, 'Skype Landlines', Kindle Fire HD, TVs, Xbox, Playstation, even iPod.

Skype is a standalone application where the only account you need is a Skype one, which is free, and isn't tied to any personal information other than an e-mail address.

If you've ever tried to run Hangouts from a 'non-supported' operating system / distribution / architecture / browser / mobile device, it doesn't freaking work. It's not designed as a proper stand-alone application so it simply doesn't work on platforms it wasn't designed for. Skype is a static application designed to run on basically anything.

Google appears to be the one lagging behind both Apple and Microsoft in terms of shipping free video calling with their platform. They have a lot of ground to cover in terms of user experience and getting users to switch from the established Skype and Facetime camps.

> Skype is a standalone application where the only account you need is a Skype one, which is free, and isn't tied to any personal information other than an e-mail address.

When Microsoft bought Skype, I seem to recall them requiring all new users to use a Microsoft account instead of a Skype account. That isn't the case now, and it may have just been a confusing installer at the time, but it's a concern.

Since when Hangouts or Skype compete with a product only Apple users can use? I personally don't know anyone who uses Facetime.

I can't wait for my voice call to be interrupted by a pop up letting me know that I'm typing while on a call.

End for Google Voice?

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