1:13 PM PST Thu, Dec 1, 2011
For people who don't use Google+ or simply don't quite understand how to Hangout, you can now communicate with those people via a voice calling feature in Hangouts with extras.
"We are constantly listening to feedback so that we can make Hangouts even better for Google+ users, and we're excited by the really cool ways people are using the product," Jarkko Oikarinen writes on Google+. "Today we’re making it possible to make phone calls from inside a hangout, so you can dial people into the room from wherever they’re at. (Helpful for party lines and conference calls alike.)"
To use the free feature, visit Hangouts with Extras to make a call to anyone in the US or Canada but to make an international call, you must use your Google Voice account. From the top of the Hangouts window, click Invite and then Phone.
Skype, on the other hand, charges for all voice calls to phones with pay-you-go rates starting at roughly $0.02 per minute, monthly subscriptions starting at about $0.01 per minute and a premium plan at a rate of $4.49 per month.
As Techcrunch notes, the new voice calling feature for Hangouts could be a great way to get more people on Google+. In October, Google+ had a reported 40M+ users compared to Facebook's 800M.
"This is fantastic!" +Steve Kaiser writes. "And the outgoing calls come from my Google Voice number, perfect. Now, allowing incoming calls would make GotoMeeting obsolete. :)"
Back in September, Google added screen sharing to Hangouts, posing a potential threat to web conferencing service GoToMeeting, which costs $49 per month.
If you have Google Voice, the caller ID on the incoming phone will see the number associated with your account. Otherwise, the Caller ID reads "Unknown."
"This will be great for making prank calls," +Danny Sullivan writes on Google+. "Allow for all the people in the hangout to participate in it."
Google+ launched to the public in late September and released the Hangouts API that same day.