Google Hangouts now supports free one minute voice calls in 25 countries

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Google recently announced that the first minute of voice calls through Hangouts will be free in 25 different countries. The search giant’s messaging app currently supports video chats and free domestic voice calls, but the company charges a different set of rates when a user places a call abroad. While you can purchase call credit for those longwinded long distance conversations, Google’s new offering is a reasonable option for quick calls or important (but brief) messages.

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Hangouts isn’t going anywhere, Google explains Android’s new Messenger app

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Google announced a plethora of goodies today and while we’ve been seeing several shots the company’s latest hardware, we keep noticing unfamiliar software icons hanging out on Mountain View’s new devices. Pictured above is a shot of Google’s new Messenger app that will be shipping with the Nexus 6 as part of Android 5.0 Lollipop.

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Google Hangouts for Android updated with Google Voice integration, free VoIP calls

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It’s finally all coming together. As many suspected would eventually happen, Google Hangouts is finally—in an update rolling out over the next few days—going to be getting integration with Google Voice. The latter service seemed to definitely be getting neglected by Google as of late, with much of the company’s focus going to its Hangouts platform. But it appears that Voice may even moreso eventually become a thing of the past because, starting today, Google is putting it straight into Hangouts as part of a new update to its apps across Android, iOS, and the web.

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Google launches Applause, a Hangouts on Air feature that tracks cheers and jeers in real-time

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Google announced a new feature for Hangouts on Air today called Applause, which lets viewers give a thumbs up or down to the content they’re viewing during a live video broadcast. In addition to sharing cheers and jeers,  this new features lets the search giant generate a real-time chart documenting the audience’s feedback as it happens. Despite looking like a game of Guitar Hero, the colorful graph gives broadcasters an easy way to monitor viewers’ feelings about their efforts. Think of it as a modern-day version of The Gong Show.

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Refreshed Hangouts in Gmail makes it easier to see who’s online

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Today, Google announced an update that improves Hangout’s integration in Gmail. In an effort to make your contacts more accessible, this new tab displays friends who are online first, followed by those who aren’t. You can still send messages to offline contacts, however they won’t get them until they sign into Hangouts from a desktop, smartphone or tablet.

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Hangouts on Air’s new Showcase app helps broadcasters further promote their products and services

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Today, Google announced the availability of its new Showcase app for Hangouts on Air that lets hosts promote content related to their conversation like websites, YouTube videos, Google+ profiles and content from Google Play via an onscreen panel displayed on the right-hand side of the video feed. For example, the cast of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes recently held a Hangout and used the Showcase app to share links to trailers and movie tickets.

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Google rolling out live event alerts in search results for YouTube and Hangouts

Google Live Events Search

Google has began rolling out an experimental feature on its search engine that makes it easier to find live events on YouTube or Hangouts on Air. A live event will begin showing up in search results up to 3 hours before it starts, providing users with a link that takes them to the event page to watch. A card-like box appears at the top of Google when searching for the name or author of live events.  Read more

Google is reportedly shuttering SMS for Hangouts feature in emerging markets (Update)

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Last year, Google added SMS support to Hangouts, along with several other features. However, prior to this, the company also had a similar feature available in emerging markets that let users add their phone numbers to its instant messaging platform. Similar to Google’s defunct Gmail SMS service, this was an alternative for feature phone users and people in regions with limited internet access.

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