Back in April, Google updated Hangouts... and in the process users lost the ability to make outgoing phone calls. News that, as you can imagine, upset quite a few people!
Google did promise to restore the service, though, saying that, "Hangouts is designed to be the future of Google Voice, and making/receiving phone calls is just the beginning. Future versions of Hangouts will integrate Google Voice more seamlessly."
Now Google has made good on that promise by bringing calls back to Hangouts, allowing users of the service to place calls from Gmail, Google+, and the Chrome extension, it was announced Tuesday.
"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!" Alex Wiesen, Senior Software Engineer at Google, wrote in the blog post.
"Even better: calls to the US and Canada are now free from all countries where Hangouts calling is available. And international rates remain super, super low."
In order to make a call from Hangouts, all a user has to do is look for the new phone icon in Gmail. In Google+ and the Chrome extension, they have to find the new "Call a phone" menu item.
For those who haven't yet tried Hangouts in Gmail, they can click their profile photo in the chat list and select "Try the new Hangouts."
Google also said that is has improved the desktop calling experience by allowing peope to add multiple phone numbers and video participants to the same call. In addition, users can now play sound effects, such as applause or laughter, with the Google Effects app.
The ability to make calls from Hangout will be rolling out over the next few days.
While calls to the U.S. and Canada are free, calls to other countries will be charged. For example, Germany and France will cost 10 cents a minute, while Mexico costs 15 cents and India is two cents.
It should also be noted that Gmail users never actually lost the ability to make free calls; in December, Google renewed its commitment to making calls to the U.S. and Canada free for yet another year. All they had to do was download the Google Talk plugin.
(Image source: http://gmailblog.blogspot.com)