How to Make Free Phone Calls with Google Hangouts

Stay in touch with free voice calls from your mobile phone or the web browser

Google Hangouts
Joe The Goat/Flickr

When you have friends or family spread across the globe, making phone calls can be expensive. You don't have to use up all your minutes or incur extra calling charges, though, thanks to Google Hangouts. Hangouts is free in the US and Canada and has low international rates, so you can make voice calls, send text messages, and even have group video chats from your mobile device or laptop without paying a dime. ~ September 15, 2014

Background: Google Hangouts

When it first started, Google Hangouts was a pretty awesome video chatting application: You could video conference with friends or coworkers easily as a group. Since then, Hangouts has morphed into even more: Not just online video chats, but also online collaboration (with things like sharing a whiteboard during a hangout or sharing a Google doc for review). Hangouts has taken over both video and text messaging communication--replacing the instant messaging app on Android phones, for example, for quick texting, as well as integrating into Gmail so you can send an instant message or make a phone call (all while processing your emails).

In short, Hangouts wants to be the one mobile- and web-based messaging app to rule them all. With it, you can send an instant message from within Gmail, a text message from your phone or browser, and, now, free phone calls from your mobile phone or web browser.

Last week, Google announced Hangouts users could make free phone calls to other Hangouts users over the web, as well as free voice calls to any number in the US or Canada. That means if you want to make a simple phone call, you don't have to use up your mobile or calling plan minutes to do so, because you could just use Google Hangouts instead for free--within the US or Canada, at least. You can do this in your web browser at Google+ Hangouts or from within the Android app and the iPhone/iPad app. (You'll need a Google+ account to get started and either download the Android or iOS app to use the new phone calling feature or use the Hangouts site to make the free phone calls, obviously.) 

Free Phone Calls via Google Hangouts 

Here's how to make the free calls.

From the web: To make a free phone call in your browser, log into your Gmail account and head to In the left navigation menu, look for the "Search people..." text input box. Search for the person you want to voice call, click on the name, and then click the phone icon at the top to begin a call. 

From Android or iOS: Open the Hangouts app (it looks like a quotation mark in a green talk icon), then type the name, email, number, or Google+ circle for the person you want to call. Then hit the phone icon, and you're good to go. Android users will need the latest version of Hangouts and the accompanying dialer to turn on voice calls, while on iOS and the web, voice calls are already available.

You can similarly send instant messages or start a video call from the same messaging window.

One of the neat things about Google Hangouts is it keeps track of your history (so you can have searchable instant messages in your email), you get notifications both on the web and your mobile devices, and you can block people from messaging or calling you as well.

For areas outside of the US and Canada, check the international calling rates, which seem to be much lower than typical calling plans.