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Google Hangouts for Android Now Supports Free VOIP Calling Using Your Google Voice Number



Google has finally given the Android version of Hangouts the ability to make and receive calls using your Google Voice number. Hangouts calling is VOIP based and uses data rather than your cellular minutes. This is great news if you want to make free calls using WiFi or are using an all-IP mobile operator like FreedomPop. Calls to US and Canadian landline and mobile numbers are free, as are calls to other Hangouts users anywhere in the world. Rates for international calls are pretty low too.

To start using Hangouts as a free VOIP calling app you need install a new Hangouts Dialer app from the Play Store and you also need to be running the just released version 2.3 of the Hangouts app. The Hangouts update is being rolled out gradually over the next couple of days so you may not see it yet (I didn't). If you can't wait Phandroid has installable APKs for both Hangouts V2.3 and the Hangouts Dialer.

I grabbed Hangouts V2.3 from Phandroid and installed the dialer from the Play Store. Calling from Hangouts works pretty well on my T-Mobile LG G2. I did a few test calls and call quality was excellent with less lag than with other VOIP apps I've used Including Talkatone, cSipSimple and the FreedomPop app.

This early release is not integrated with the Android dialer, you have to use the Hangouts Dialer app to make calls. The Dialer does import your Android contacts so I don't consider it much of a hardship to have to use it to make Hangouts calls.

However, there are a couple things that I'd like to see fixed in the new Hangouts:
  • I'm probably missing something but it doesn't seem to be possible to send an SMS from Hangouts using your Google Voice number. The Hangouts documentation says there should be a "Send SMS from" option in the SMS portion of the Hangouts menu. But the option's not there for me  and all my texts for being sent using my mobile number. I've disabled SMS in Hangouts so that I can still use the old Google Voice app to send texts from my Google number. 
  • If you use the Google Voice Web site to switch which phones you calls go to, you won't find Hangouts listed as something to enable or disable calls to. The old Google Talk option is still there but disabling it doesn't stop calls from going to Hangouts. By default all calls now go to Hangouts. You can disable calls from going to Hangouts using a setting that'd deeply buried in the Hangouts app. To get to it:
    1. Tap the "hamburger" menu icon in the top left corner of any screen of the Hangout app.
    2. Tap Settings
    3. Tap your Google account
    4. Scroll down and check the box labeled "Incoming phone calls"
  • That means that to switch between having Google Voice calls go to your mobile number or to Hangouts, you have to go the the Web site to enable or disable forwarding to your mobile number and then enable and disable incoming calls in the Hangouts app. Not very convenient. I hoping that eventually Hangouts let you which Google Voice forwarding between all  your phones as well as Hangouts.
    The initial release of VOIP enabled Hangouts is already very useful. I'm sure there will be a bunch of updates to Hangouts that will improve usability and ease the minor pain points. 
Update: My missing "Send SMS from" option in the Hangout apps appears to be a common problem. According to posts on Google's public Hangouts help forum it's because Google hasn't completed the integration of Voice and Hangouts for most user's accounts. You are supposed to get an email notification when Google Voice/Hangouts integration is available for your account.

It also sounds like the full integration rollout isn't going all that smoothly. Droid Life found a Google Plus post by a member of the Google Voice team saying that Google has rolled back the integration of Google Voice SMS with Hangouts for at least some of the users who already opted in.

I don't see the lack of full GV/Hangouts integration as a big deal. Even though the rollout ism't complete, if you update to Hangouts 2.3 and install the Hangouts Dialer you can.

  1. Make calls with your Google Voice number using data (WiFi or cellular) in Hangouts 2.3
  2. Receive calls to your Google Voice number using data (WiFi or cellular) in Hangouts 2.3
  3. Make calls from your Google Voice number using cellular minutes with the Android dialer or the Google Voice app
  4. Have calls to your Google Voice number forward to any of your phone numbers.
  5. Send texts with your Google Voice number using data (WiFi or cellular) using the Google Voice app
  6. Receive texts to your Google Voice number using data (WiFi or cellular) in the Google Voice app or have them forwarded to your email

Even without full Google Voice Hangouts integration we already have all the features of the old Google Voice plus the ability to make and receive Google Voice calls using data instead of minutes.

Source, images: Google Official Blog


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33 comments:

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  1. same problem. "Send SMS from" option is missing. outgoing SMS seem to be going from phone number rather than Google-voice number

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    1. I have the same issue; seems to be where this option may be missing on some devices.

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  2. I was also able to make and receive calls with my Google Voice number on my iPad mini using the updated Hangouts app for iOS.

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  3. Free incoming and out...that Sounds interesting.. especially if calling quality is good ..

    wondering if you could use an inactive (no plan) locked phone on wifi... ? separate from your other phone(s) just for google voice.. rather than adding this to your current ph as a totally separate "free" use phone unrelated to your phone line & plan ???

    never used magic jac.. and of the few know whose used it in the past they never have mentioned having to listen to ads .. but looked at terms and they allow for ads to be used... (isn't that freedompop's model too?)

    So wondering what's Google's payback? ad's around dailer? voice ads? or is it mining the conversation like internet searches for that "meta data"..... to use for determing ads when you and those contacts are detected as being on line.... ???

    or maybe like some start ups- letting users have it free.. til the habit is well established before charging a little... (wasn't skype free too, at first?)

    as they say.. "there's no such thing as a free lunch" especially when Big Corporations are involved!
    then it seems :( - it's more likely to be a case of .. that they might be trying to eat more than a little bite of yours!!!

    But however they're monetizing this.. maybe it'll be worth it to those seeking FREE CALLING options...

    and if it works out well.. hope they won't stop offering it...

    And Thanks again Dennis.. for sharing the info with your readers... sounds like for some.. it could well be worth checking out...

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    1. Of course you can use a non activated phone on this, or any tablet with audio. As long as it is recent enough Android.

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  4. Odd, my SMS are still working fine and come from Google Voice number. I have always used the Google Voice number for everything except MMS, nobody even knows my cell number (which has changed numerous times). I did do the added step of capturing the weird numbers that get sent for people from Google Voice in their contact information.

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    1. that option has always worked, the random gv number is just a middleman that translate your real number your gv number for the other party to see.

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  5. "That means that to switch between having Google Voice calls go to your mobile number or to Hangouts, you have to go the the Web site to enable or disable forwarding to your mobile number and then enable and disable incoming calls in the Hangouts app. Not very convenient."

    There's a 99¢ app called Bring Ring that will let you enable and disable phones. It's probably not worth 99¢, but it works, is easier then using the web site, and surprisingly is the only app I can find that does the job.

    I agree though: there's no reason this can't be on an official google app.

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    1. I haven't found that you need to use the web site at all. Just in the Hangouts settings you check or uncheck the send incoming calls from GV to Hangouts. I have noticed though that when I unchecked it (because I was leaving the house and wifi connection) that I actually had to logout of Hangouts before I could get it to send the calls to Hangouts again, even though I had gone back in and checked the box when I was back in range of my wifi.

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  6. I tested Google Hangouts on my iPhone 5s and it worked brilliantly.

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  7. Been trying it....

    The user interface is poor, with tiny numbers that are hard to hit accurately in the dialing area at the bottom of the screen, and much of the middle taken up by useless white space. Dialing "pad" screens should be a no brainer, but Google keeps getting them wrong. I remember the severe downgrade to the dialer after "Froyo" when the dialing pad is buried for no good reason after you call a number.

    Also, it has apparently blocked the dialing of toll-free numbers. I won't give up on Groove IP entirely.

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    1. I just tested calling Boost Mobile's tool-free number (866-402-7366) using Hangouts and it worked. What toll-free numbers are you trying to call?

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    2. Another 866 number, Dennis. The eBay one.

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    3. I just made a successful Hangouts call to Ebay customer service at (866) 540-3229 .

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    4. That's the number I tried last night. It said it was a non-working number. I will do the same number again.....

      yeah, it is non-working. If I call it through Sprint, it works. If I call other numbers in Hangouts, they work. This includes the Boost number you gave: it readily works in Hangouts.

      Delete
  8. Does anyone know how many MB of data is for 1 min of talk? If it is low, I think RedPocket Mobile's $10 1GB data fits this plan.

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    1. don't know but that's a good question if used mobile...
      maybe somebody tech oriented does..
      because even if the data used per call for voip is low...

      how much more will opening and using the connection (and keeping open) both the google app and the dailer app and their cookies etc.. add to the total data drain? or is it minimial pulling contacts and placing the calls? or is it running behind the scenes all the time? anybody that computer savvy??

      maybe no problem on wifi.. but when paying for cell data... will it be a wash or even worse than cell minute costs?

      Delete
    2. Phone calls using google voice on the computer consume ~20KB/s - 10KB/s each way. So a minute of talk is ~1.2MB. An hour would be ~72MB of data.

      So about 80 minutes per 100MB of data.

      Delete
  9. Ate you sure it IMPORTS your contacts (this would be a terrible idea)? It should just access them where they are.

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    1. Imports was probably a bad way of putting it. I actually have no idea how the implementation works under the covers. All I know is that your Google Contacts are available in the Contacts tab in Hangouts.

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    2. It reads and use your contacts, not importing

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  10. Hangouts works fine on iPhone dialing an outgoing call. That was a surprise. The call even shows up in my GV history.

    BUT ... Hangouts on iPhone still seems very clumsy to me. Looks nice and calls work but the app is still clumsy where you have to go to the calls section at the far right end and then you have to pull down the dialer by pressing a button in the upper right corner, and then press a tab? up there to get all the people in your contacts. That's too many steps. This clumsy way of dialing out is apparently because Hangouts first emphasizes adding people from all the people who you follow (circle) on Google+ -- but what if you are not a G+ user? So there is this duality of G+ people first and then regular people with phone numbers who come second. Hangouts should copy how skype handles a dual combination of contacts where you have a mix of skype-only users and then the people who only have phone numbers. That's also a bit clumsy on Skype but in comparison it's much better than in Hangouts.

    Bottomline imho, Hangouts is CRAP no matter if on iphone or android.

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    1. I agree. It's terrible. But I like this dialing thing, as a way to make free calls. As long as it lets me bypass the rest of Hanhouts.

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  11. Ladies and Gentlemen. Best to install a very reliable VoIP app. Many already operate using your present cell number. They are free and very very cheap rates both domestic and international.

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    1. Anon: Tell us a reliable one then. I have tried Groove IP/Ring To (10 second delay, echo) and others ... all kind of crappy.

      Hangouts Dial seems to have above average quality compared to the others I have tried.

      Delete
  12. I upgraded the Google Voice app on my Samsung Conquer 4G, it now no longer works (crashes at or just after start up).

    Anybody else upgrade their GV app and have problems with it crashing?

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  13. In my opinion Skype is the best in the voip game....but Skype is not free.

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  14. Does anyone know if I sign in and use Hangouts app, does it mean I sign in Google+ as well? Thanks.

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    1. On Android, when you set up a Google account in Settings >Accounts & Sync > Google you are asked if you want to join Google+. If you decline you can still use Hangouts with that account.

      You can also setup multiple Google accounts and be signed into different ones in Hangouts and Google+ at the same time.

      I rarely use iOS so I can say how Google accounts work there.

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  15. The Google Voice app that was crashing is version 4.6.0, I installed it on Sept 11, on Sept 12 Google released Google Voice 4.6.1, this new version does not crash.

    WOW, I didn't think a company as big as Google could fix and release a new version in just 1 day, that's pretty rare.

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  16. Can anybody tell me if Google will allow a number port in to GV from PTel?

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    1. I believe so. You can check if a number is eligible for porting using the Google Voice porting eligibility form.

      I entered my PTel number on the form and it said the number was eligible for porting.

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    2. The reason I ask about porting into GV from PTel, is I have read in the GV forum of ports that failed and blamed because Google could not (or would not) deal with that MVNO, and the forum response was try one of the big 4 MNO's to port into GV.

      And of course, Google is one of those internet companies that does not have customer service, so you can't just ask them.

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