The Google Hangouts app for iOS has received an update for United States and Canadian customers that allows free voice calls throughout North America.
The 1.3.0 update of Google Hangouts for iOS is currently only available in the US and Canada. It adds the ability to make outbound calls on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, and customers signed up to a Google Voice number can also use the app to receive calls.
Calls are free within the US and Canada, but international calls are subject to standard Google Voice rates, which the company says can be as low as a fifth of the price of the US' leading mobile providers. The calls use mobile or Wi-Fi data rather than a telco provider's voice network, relying on a user's monthly data allotment.
The Hangouts app also adds some much-needed features, like a marker for online and offline friends and a more considerate new message tone, which temporarily quietens any music playing instead of stopping it altogether.
The app update was released on October 18 in North America, but it is unclear whether an equivalent update will be released locally. Google's Hangouts app is currently at version 1.2.0 in Australia on both iOS and Android. The Google Voice service is available to Australian users, but there is no provision for a Google Voice number, required to receive incoming voice calls.
Google's Hangouts update is a sign of things to come for a future Android version of the app, which has not yet been updated with a similar feature set. The upcoming Google Android 4.4 update may include an updated version of Hangouts.