Google has announced that the VOIP app Google Voice will now be integrated into the video conferencing application known as Hangouts, and MMS support for more than 100 North American carriers will be enabled. The roll-out which begins immediately will see Hangouts on all devices including those on the mobile iOS and Android platforms, as well as with desktop computers.
Hangouts has been redesigned, and the interface now appears, much brighter and incorporates the minimalist views that Google has adopted. It is also much easier to navigate, and features the multitab appearance that allows individual access to calls, contacts, and conversations.
The announcement may be disturbing for the telephone industry which continues to be transformed, as it expands the ability to make free calls on the internet. Although the ability to make voice-only calls has been available for some time, it was never really emphasized, but now VOIP calls are available to phones in North America, and connection to other Hangout users can be made for free, anywhere on the planet.
As Google Voice is integrated into Hangouts, for users to be able to use the feature, the installation of a special dialing app is required, as is the latest version of Google Hangouts. For users who are familiar with Google Voice, the use of Hangouts will add another dimension, as calls from Hangouts can now be made from your Google Voice number, while the text of the conversations will appear in the chat window, as well as any text messages. Calls through Hangouts can also be received from Voice.
There are a number of options available to handle text messages. Replies can be sent from either the Google Voice number, or the regular phone that receives the call, or Google Voice can even be set as the default for replying. As the roll-out proceeds, more features will be added and even iOS users can expect to be able to use voice-mail and SMS on Google Voice in the very near future. The integration of accounts is as seamless as can be possible, and operating is just as simple. In order to send SMS, all that is required is a tap on the SMS icon that now appears in Hangouts, and the application uses the SMS protocol instead of the Hangouts messaging system.
Along with the integration, Google has also reduced many of the costs of international calls made through Google Voice, even though they were seen as being quite competitive, and in some countries the rates have been cut in half. Google sees the integration of Voice with Hangouts as a natural extension of the manner in which people communicate on the web. The progression has gone from text to video, and the addition of voice is a natural progression. The company states that, in their evaluation, the type of calls made are often dictated by the emergency of the situation, and voice calls often precede video calls, which justifies the emphasis on voice transmissions.
When Google Voice is fully integrated with Hangouts, and support for the major carriers is enabled, the features and functions of the application will continue to expand, and Google says that there are no immediate plans to delete Google Voice numbers.
By Dale Davidson