Google brings Gmail calling back and integrates it better with Hangouts

gmailThose of you who are avid Google Voice users, and who also took the plunge and enabled Hangouts in Gmail, probably noticed the absence of Gmail calling. One of the most under-advertised but useful features of Gmail that I can think of, this feature allowed you to make and receive calls using your Google Voice number, and the functionality all but broke completely for those who upgraded from the old Gmail Chat.

Luckily, Google announced yesterday that phone calls are returning to Gmail – along with official support in Google Hangouts on Google+ and in the Chrome extension. Previously, it was possible to make and receive calls if you used the Hangouts Chrome extension, but the process was very buggy: for example, sometimes it wasn’t possible to answer incoming calls. To dial out, you needed to start a new video Hangout and subsequently add phone numbers that way. Perhaps most annoyingly, phone calls weren’t supported at all in the web versions of Hangouts in Gmail or Google+ – you absolutely needed the Chrome extension. (I explained all of my complaints about Hangouts shortly after its release in May.)

Luckily, all of this will change over the next few days for most users, as phone calls will officially be supported across all of the different methods to access Hangouts on desktop computers. According to Google, going forward it will be easier than ever to add multiple phone numbers and video participants to the same call, and you can even play sound effects like applause or laughter with the Google Effects app. (Somehow, I see the number of prank calls made through Google Hangout going up.)

Over the next few days, a new phone icon will appear in your Gmail, and a new “Call a phone” menu item will show up in Google+ and the Chrome extension. As an added bonus, calling to US and Canadian numbers will be free even when initiating the call from outside the US. Thanks, Google!

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John F

John was the editor-in-chief at Pocketables. His articles generally focus on all things Google, including Chrome and Android, although his love of new gadgets and technology doesn't stop there. His current arsenal includes the Nexus 6 by Motorola, the 2013 Nexus 7 by ASUS, the Nexus 9 by HTC, the LG G Watch, and the Chromebook Pixel, among others.

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3 thoughts on “Google brings Gmail calling back and integrates it better with Hangouts

  • Avatar of Bill
    July 10, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Hooray! Great to see google getting us closer to where we were Some of these “upgrades” feel like we upgraded from a Concorde to a Cessna. For instance, I can’t for the life of me find how to grab a URL link anymore in the new Google Maps website, I have to revert to “classic” maps to get the option of generating a link, and even then, the short link function is broken.

  • Avatar of Aaron Orquia
    July 10, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    This is great news, I actually use the Gmail calling feature, and the eventual integration of Google Voice will be perfect.

  • Avatar of tourist visa for vietnam nz
    July 29, 2013 at 10:23 am

    Wow, superb blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
    you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is wonderful,
    let alone the content!


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