When Google debuted its new Hangouts messaging service back in May, many holdouts refused to upgrade from Gchat because of Hangouts' lack of phone calling functionality. Now, those disgruntled users may finally make the jump--because Google has brought back the ability to make calls from Gmail.
Google has maintained that Hangouts are designed to be "the future of Google Voice," a service previously known as GrandCentral and acquired by the Mountain View-based search giant in 2007. In a blog post published Tuesday, the company announced the resurrection of phone calling within Gmail and tossed in a few extras as well. Hangouts upgraded the desktop calling experience, so users can ring multiple video participants and phone numbers in a single call--and can also add sound effects to their conversations.
Google also revealed that all Hangouts calls to the U.S. and Canada will be free from countries where the service is available. It'll be a few days before the calling functionality is rolled out to all users. Those who already have it should see a phone icon in Hangouts above the contact list in Gmail or "Call a phone" from a drop-down menu in Google Plus.