The convenience of modern smartphones and the emergence of video calling services have all but made traditional phone lines an outdated technology. Although it has failed to garner the same media coverage as services like Skype, Google has offered its own internet-based telephone service in the past; a feature that has vanished with the recent redesign of Gmail. However, amid a flurry of public support, Google is bringing it back.
Alex Wiesen, a senior software engineer involved in the project, wrote, “For those of you who have taken the plunge and are using desktop Hangouts in Gmail, Google + and the Chrome extension, we’ve heard you loud and clear that you miss the ability to make calls from Gmail, so today, we’re happy to announce it’s back.”
Not only are calls to the US and Canada completely free of charge, but international calls are also extremely inexpensive. According to the announcement, several new features have also been added. Foremost, users can now add multiple people to a single chat or video call, and you can play nifty sound effects while on the line with Google Effects. For example, you can introduce a backdrop of applause or laughter if the moment seems right.
To access the call feature, you can either click on the phone icon in Gmail that's located under Hangouts, or the “Call a phone” menu button that resides in both Google+ and the Chrome extension.
It’s quickly becoming apparent that Google is focusing its efforts on the Hangout platform, and its close ties to Google+. The company explained that, “Hangouts is designed to be the future of Google Voice, and making and receiving calls is just the beginning.”
Currently, there has been no mention of the voice calling service coming to the mobile app. Nevertheless, this seems to be the next logical move.