Google Hangouts for Android can now place VOIP phone calls (sort of…)
May 15 is the day that Google promised it would shut down support for all third party Google Voice VOIP calling apps, but that doesn’t mean Google is retiring VOIP calling altogether. In fact, Google has already made it perfectly clear it intends to merge all or most of Google Voice into Hangouts, and if the Hangouts iOS app is any indication of the future of the app on Android, this includes VOIP calling to traditional phone numbers.
In fact, VOIP calling is already sort of half-baked into Google Hangouts for Android right now. As some smart Reddit users discovered early this week, it’s possible to start a phone call using Hangouts on your computer, join the call using Hangouts on Android, and leave the Hangout on your computer.
What you’re left with is the screen you see on the right – a true VOIP call using Hangouts on Android. While it’s still impossible to initiate the call on Android, this shows that the capability to have a phone call is there and practically ready to go.
I’ve played around with this a bit myself, and here are the hiccups I’ve noticed so far:
- Sometimes you have to wait as much as a minute before the Hangout will appear in the Hangouts app on your Android phone, allowing you to join it.
- You can’t end the Hangout on your computer, or else it will disconnect everyone. Instead, exit the Hangout by closing the window.
- There is no dialer in Hangouts for Android (yet), so good luck if you try to navigate through a phone tree.
- Call quality over WiFi and LTE is good. Call quality over HSPA+ … not so much.
- Since this is obviously still a feature that’s being developed, you can expect other bugs to crop up. Some users have reported that calls drop after a few minutes; I haven’t noticed that myself, but it could happen.
I haven’t been able to think of any real world application for this, except for those very rare instances you may want to shut down your computer and walk around your house during a Hangout. This might also be beneficial if you are traveling internationally and are willing to start a call on your computer to avoid roaming charges.
In any case, go ahead and play around with this – and let us know what you think. Hopefully, this feature makes it way to Hangouts officially, before the May 15 deadline.[Reddit]