Google offers free phone calls from within Hangouts

The Web giant adds a new features to Google+ that lets users places free phone calls to the United States and Canada from its "Hangouts with extras" video conferencing service.

Users of Google+ Hangouts with extras can now place phone calls from within the application. Google

Google is encroaching just a little bit more in the telecommunications world.

Today, it began offering free voice calls in the United States and Canada from inside its Google+ Hangouts video conference service. Now, Google+ users can dial anyone in those two countries and have them join a Hangout, even if they're not online.

Google's Jarkko Oikarinen announced the new service via Google+.

Even though Oikarinen posted his note publically, Google isn't making the service easy to find. Rather than including it on the interface that launches when user click the "Start a Hangout" tab on their Google+ home page, users need to navigate to Hangouts with extras (plus.google.com/hangouts/extras) to try the service.

Google introduced Hangouts with extras in September as something of a testing ground for the video conferencing feature. It's an alternative offering where users can share notes and drawings using a sketchpad, as well as collaborate with Google Docs, the company's online word processing application. Users can also screenshare in Hangouts with extras.

Google may eventually integrate some of the features from Hangouts with extras into its more widely used Hangouts service.

A Google spokeswoman said the service has now rolled out to all Google+ users.


Updated at 3 p.m. PT to add more details about the service.

About the author

Jay Greene, a CNET senior writer, works from Seattle and focuses on investigations and analysis. He's a former Seattle bureau chief for BusinessWeek and author of the book "Design Is How It Works: How the Smartest Companies Turn Products into Icons" (Penguin/Portfolio).

 

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