Back in 2013, Google decided to free Hangouts from the clutches of Google +. Now it’s well-established as a standalone application for communication. In other words, it became a chat/meeting app as part of the G-suite line of Google’s services.
Although it was marketed towards enterprises, much like Microsoft Teams or even Skype for Business, there’s a sizable pool of regular consumers that use it as well. But is Google Hangouts free?
When the Hangouts brand was divided in 2017, it became two specific products.
One was Hangouts Meet, which was mainly marketed towards businesses, or used to facilitate video conferences and video calls. All of which became invaluable to most larger companies.
The other became Hangouts Chat, a “lite” version meant to be used by a more casual crowd. Essentially, it’s an instant messaging app with added functionalities such as threaded messaging (allowing users to reply to specific messages in the same way an e-mail chain/thread works) and bot assistance. One app that offers a similar service, for example, is Slack.
While the business-oriented Meet version is indeed a paid for app, the Chat version uses what’s called a freemium model. But what does this mean for the average consumer, who just wants to know if they can call for free?
So, Can I Make a Call for Free?
In short: yes, if certain conditions are met.
In order to receive any calls via Hangouts, you’ll also need to have a Google Voice account. Unfortunately, at the present time, setting up a Google Voice account is only possible in the United States. This may change in time, however, but for now, if you’re a citizen of the US, you should be able to proceed.
Note that you’re still able to make calls to the US as a citizen of other countries, it’s only receiving them that’s currently limited or unavailable.
According to Google’s own specifications, any calls made to the US and Canada, from the United States, are free, with a few exceptions which cost you one American cent per minute. The rate isn’t terribly expensive, and a list of rates for other countries and regions can be found here. Check it out if you’d like to see just how much you’ll be charged for a call.
Great, How Do I Make a Call?
If you meet the requirements mentioned above, then you should be good to go. There are a few things you need to be sure of before you can make any calls however:
- Firstly, make sure that you have Hangouts installed on your device as an app, or alternatively, check if you can access it from Gmail. The Hangouts widget will be located on the bottom left side when logged into Gmail, if you haven’t disabled it. Also, you can access it simply by heading to this link.
- Make sure you’re covered from the technical side of things as well. By that, we mean you should make sure to have a microphone and speakers ready to go. You’re also welcome to use a headset with a good mic too, for the best experience.
- Once you’ve accessed Hangouts via one of the ways mentioned in Step 1. click on the “Call” tab on the menu on the left side of the screen. Or simply click on the large phone icon on the greet screen.
- You’ll see a search bar on the top left appear, if not, simply click on the “New Conversation” icon. There, you just need to enter the number you wish to dial and click the small phone icon to continue. Easy as that!
- Note that, if you’re calling from a country that isn’t the US, or if you’re calling one of the regions that aren’t free-to-call, you’ll have to add funds to your Google Voice account. Luckily, there’s a small button just to the right of the dialer that you can click that will take you to your Voice account menu. There, you’ll be able to add phone credit via this
And that’s all there is to the process. Overall, it’s been simplified so that both people experienced with similar apps and those not so tech-savvy can use it without any problems.
Hanging Out Turned Out to Be Easy
Of course, that’s to be expected for any service used by a large audience, whether it’s a corporation or family members that are an ocean apart. Overall, Google Hangouts is an underrated tool that has proven to be a great alternative to Skype.
If you have any other suggestions concerning the app, or any tips or useful information, please do share them in the comments section below.