What was gone is now back, in a manner, as Google today announced it's bringing voice calling to Hangouts.
"For those of you who have taken the plunge and are using desktop Hangouts in Gmail, Google+ and the Chrome extension, we've heard loud and clear that you miss the ability to make calls from Gmail, so today, we're happy to announce it's back - and better than before!" wrote Alex Wiesen, senior software engineer in a blog post.
Calls to the U.S. and Canada are free of charge, and international rates, Wiesen promised, are "super, super low." The company has an international rate calculator running if you want to see how low is super low.
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Google had previously promised to reinstate the ability to make calls in Gmail, a feature that was lost when someone upgraded to the Hangouts messaging service from Google Talk.
Holla at a Hangout update
Users don't just have the ability to ring contacts from within Gmail: They can do it from Google+ and via the Chrome extension too.
Google's also added the ability to add multiple phone numbers and video participants onto the same call. And (gasp!) users can play sound effects like applause or laughter. We like to use these when our wit falls flat. It's a good self-esteem booster.
Anyway - if you're not seeing a phone icon in Gmail or "Call a phone" menu item in Google+ or the Chrome extension, don't worry. The service is rolling out over the next couple of days, Wiesen wrote.
"Hangouts is designed to be the future of Google Voice," he continued, so stay tuned for more updates. Hopefully, those will bring word of iOS and Android Hangouts app support, which got not mention in today's announcement.
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