Just this week Google took the unusual step of rolling out some updates to the oft-forgotten Google Voice app. Voice has been lurking in the proverbial shadows of Google’s portfolio of communication tools, so seeing improvements roll out was unexpected. The bulk of the changes that hit this week were interface updates. New reports indicate Google is working on some new features and capabilities for Voice to add support for VoIP and in a related move Hangouts will get some beefy encryption added to that platform.
When Google provided the update for Voice earlier this week, they indicated the app would be getting more regular updates. Apparently the inclusion of VoIP support is close to the top of the list in terms of features to be added in one of these forthcoming updates. According to a source with Google:
The updated Google Voice app doesn’t have VoIP features — it has the same features for making calls as the existing Google Voice app. Hangouts will ring by default in addition to any forwarding phones on your account, just as it did before. (Again, not a change with the new app.) We are working on VoIP integration.
Along with the support for VoIP, Google is believed to be working on support for WiFi calling. This would allow WiFi to be used as a backup when cellular coverage is lost. This also means the ability to make and receive calls could be extended to the desktop and a web interface. The ability to untether communications from a specific platform and follow a user to whatever device they happen to be using is a major feature for many users and could definitely help entice users to give Voice a try.
Related to the improvements to Voice, sources also indicate Google is planning to add some strong encryption capability to the Hangouts platform. Google is trying to move Hangouts away from the general consumer market and position it as an enterprise solution. That is likely part of the reason we are seeing the enhancements to Voice as a way to entice regular users off of Hangouts and over to Voice. Adding in additional security features like better encryption to Hangouts will make it a more attractive platform for the enterprise.