When Google made the move earlier this year to start consolidating all of their communication platforms to the Hangouts app, one feature that went missing was the ability to include phone calls as part of a Hangout. In response to user demand, Google announced today that they have brought that feature back to the desktop versions of Gmail, Google+ and the Chrome extension. Possibly due to the negative vibes created by removing the feature, Google not only brought the feature back, they have improved the calling features by making calls to U.S. or Canadian numbers free.
Users will also find they can add multiple phone callers or video callers onto the same Hangout, creating a virtual conference call system in the process. Those who have used Hangouts know Google includes some video effects for those participating to help liven things up a bit. Google has added some sound-based effects so audio-only participants calling in on a phone are not left out in the cold.
The new features are rolling out now and should take a couple days to reach all users. Once available, users can look for the new phone icon in Gmail or the “Call a phone” menu item in Google+. Unfortunately, no word yet on when SMS support may be coming to the new Hangouts platform.
source: Gmail Blog