When Google rolled out its new unified Hangouts messaging service, some users were disappointed that the new experience within Gmail removed the ability to place free calls within the US and Canada. Google previously confirmed that the feature would be returning and today it announced on its Gmail blog that it is rolling out the free calling feature to Gmail Hangouts and also adding some new features.
In addition to improvements to desktop calling, such as the ability to “add multiple phone numbers and video participants to the same call” and play sound effects, it is also making calls to the US and Canada free from any country with access to Hangouts.
Today’s launch also improves the desktop calling experience in a number of ways. For example: you can add multiple phone numbers and video participants to the same call; and you can play sound effects (like applause or laughter) with the Google Effects app.
To make a call from Hangouts, just look for the new phone icon in Gmail, or for the new “Call a phone” menu item in Google+ and the Chrome extension. And of course: if you haven’t yet tried Hangouts in Gmail, you can always click your profile photo in the chat list and select “Try the new Hangouts.”
Google said the new calling features will be rolling out to Hangouts in Gmail over the next couple of days.