The search giant is also introducing “affordable” calling rates abroad, which should equate to a few cents a minute. This is a clear extension of the company’s Voice service, which has been rumored to be killed off but really only appears to become integrated into Hangouts. This move makes sense as Google has been quietly trying to integrate all forms of communication, Voice, Video and Chat under one app. Right now, hangouts combines chat (once Google Chat) with video but with this update it it adds voice, simply making Google Hangouts more useful and versatile.
This is a clear attempt by Google to also compete with some of the already existing voice, chat and video services that exist as third party solutions. However, those services do not have free calling outside of the application and don’t come as the default messaging app on Android. The one thing to also consider is that even though Hangouts is a great app, it still doesn’t come default on a lot of devices due to manufacturer or carrier customizations. This is changing with the newer crop of smartphones, but that will take some time to really take hold on the whole Android install base. Some carriers, like AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) push their own cloud messaging services which make Hangouts a secondary messaging service to the regular consumer that doesn’t know the power of Google Hangouts.
Google expects to push out the update to Android users over the coming days and a simple update of Google Hangouts will enable free calling via Hangouts. If you have the iOS or web app, Hangouts will already have this functionality the next time you use it. The one thing Google failed to mention, though, is that they didn’t say anything about the Hangouts desktop app or when that functionality will come to those users.