Upgrading Gmail Chat to Hangouts will kill Google Voice calling
Google Hangouts, the Web messaging tool launched by Google last Wednesday, is available on Android, iOS, as a Chrome extension and as a feature inside Gmail. In fact, Hangouts replaces Gmail’s Google Talk chat feature completely once you upgrade to it, but doing so comes at a cost: you’ll lose the ability to make Google Voice calls inside Gmail.
This news, first reported by The Verge, has been confirmed after our own testing. There is no phone dialer present for you to make phone calls from your inbox. Calls that are made to your Google Voice number, though, will work and will also route to any phones you’ve activated. For a service that is supposed to bring all of Google’s messaging efforts together, the removal of one half of this important feature is kind of a bummer.
Hangouts works a bit differently than Google Talk in other ways, too. For instance, you won’t be able to set an online, offline, busy or invisible status once you switch over. You also won’t be able to post a “status message,” which was sort of like Google Talk’s take on the away message. And, much like the iOS app we reviewed last week, you have no control over who shows up on your list, and online users are not separated from offline users.
One of the most requested features in the new Hangouts app is SMS messaging, according to Google. We have a feeling that Google Voice calling will be pretty high on the list once more people switch over and realize the feature is missing. Especially since Google is still offering free calling with the feature until the end of 2013.
Fortunately, if you’ve switched over and you’re not digging the new look or the missing Google Voice functionality, Google has made it pretty easy to switch back. Simply click on your name or profile picture in the Hangouts section and click “Revert to old chat.” How long will the previous version stick around? We don’t know for sure.
We’ll let you know if we hear any more about Google Voice’s fate inside Gmail.
Update: A Google+ post from Google Product Manager Nikhyl Singhal included the following info:
1) Today’s version of Hangouts doesn’t yet support outbound calls on the web and in the Chrome extension, but we do support inbound calls to your Google Voice number. We’re working hard on supporting both, and outbound/inbound calls will soon be available. In the meantime, you can continue using Google Talk in Gmail.
2) Hangouts is designed to be the future of Google Voice, and making/receiving phone calls is just the beginning. Future versions of Hangouts will integrate Google Voice more seamlessly.