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Summary:

At last week’s Google I/O event, Google Voice news was noticeably absent from the stage, overshadowed by the new Hangouts service, which doesn’t yet support Voice. Hold tight, says Google, it’s coming.

Google Voice

Although last week’s Google I/O event overflowed with new feature debuts, I noted on Thursday that one key Google service was absent: Google Voice. Instead we heard about Google’s new Hangouts app, a unified messaging service for the web, Android and iOS devices.

Hangouts has taken the place of Google Talk, which is what I use daily to make phone calls via Google Voice. Or at least I used to.

telephoneAt the moment, users who upgrade to Hangouts on the web lose the ability to make voice calls through the old Google Talk. Incoming Google Voice calls can still be accepted through the new Hangouts, however. It turns out that Google Voice actually is a big part of Hangouts, it’s just not ready yet. Nikhyl Singhal, a product manager for all of Google’s real-time communications services said this on his Google+ page on Monday:

“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.”

Singhal notes that from within Gmail, users can still place outbound Google Voice phone calls, so the functionality is still available; just not yet in the new Hangouts app or the Chrome extension for Hangouts.

On a related note, Hangouts still doesn’t use the open source WebRTC, or Web real-time communications, API that will allow for video, voice and file sharing without the need for plug-ins. Instead, the service is still built upon technology from Vidyo, which clarified the WebRTC situation in a blog post today. Google has confirmed the same to my colleague, Janko Roettgers.

  1. Thank goodness you’re here and giving some sense to this, Kevin. I’ve used Google Voice since my OG Droid and would hate to see it disappear. The confusing mess of Talk, Voice, Hangouts, GMail, and what is/isn’t implemented is not easy to follow or comprehend (and don’t get me started on the half baked implementation of GVoice on iOS). Frankly, if it all gets consolidated (the sooner the better) that will be a good thing. Ideally, though, with a different moniker than ‘Hangouts’ — jeez, who’s parent thought that one up?!

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  2. Reblogged this on ProduSoul and commented:
    With the threat of a voice app for Whatsapp, the present dominant spot of Skype, of BBM ( now with Voice) being made available on iOS and Android… Smart move Google!

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  3. Here’s my question… Will Google opt to go the way of Skype, BBM, iMessage/FaceTime, Whatsapp and others, that is to connect people via email addresses or other unique identifiers?

    What has made Google Voice different is that it interacts directly with POTS (plain old telephone service). I’m identified and can be contacted via a ten digit phone number from any system that connects to the carriers. And, I can port my phone number from my old carrier to Google Voice, or port it out of Google Voice if I wish – the ultimate in data freedom.

    It appears that Hangouts will integrate voice quickly, but I don’t see any indication that they will continue offering phone numbers in competition with their carrier/partners.

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    1. leroy jenkins Wednesday, May 22, 2013

      Michael,
      I’m pretty sure Voice+hangouts will continue to work with phone numbers. The only reason I say this is that when I get a call to my google voice number, I first notice a “#xxx is trying to hangout with you” message in chrome on my computer or via the hangout app on my iphone.
      Try it out, but unless this is a bug, i’ve been getting this for a few days.

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  4. When I click on my “Communicate” icon/link/button on my phone, computer, TV or any other device – I want to be able to 1. Initiate a text, voice, or video call to anyone 2. See or hear all my recent text, voice and video messages 3. answer any incoming communication – using only *one technique* to do it. I learn slowly and forget easily.

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  5. I rely on sending and receiving text messages using my Google Voice Phone Number. Can Hangouts be used to send and receive texts to and from phone numbers? Also, I use Google Voice to make and receive calls via my PC. Will this change? Who at Google can I put my vote in for keeping these functions?

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