How to Make Voice and Video Calls in Gmail

Use Google Hangouts or Gmail to place voice and video calls

Just as with Skype and many other programs that use VoIP technology for communication, Google has its tool for making voice and video calls. It's called Hangouts, and it replaced Google Talk as Google's main communication tool. You can use it embedded in your web browser while logged in to your Gmail or Google account or you can use it directly in the Hangouts app.

Google is shutting down Hangouts sometime in 2021 and replacing it with Google Chat. Hangouts users who update to Chat can automatically migrate their conversations, along with contacts and saved history.

From Hangouts, you can connect with up to nine other people at a time for a video call, which is perfect for contacting family groups, co-workers, and friends.

You can contact any of your Gmail contacts, which are automatically imported to Hangouts when you sign up. If you're an Android user and are logged in as a Google user on your mobile device, your phone contacts are saved and synced with your Google account. 

System Requirement for Hangouts

Hangouts is compatible with the current versions and the two previous versions of the operating systems listed here:

  • Windows
  • Mac OS X
  • Chrome
  • Ubuntu and other Linux distributions

Compatible browsers are the current releases of the browsers listed below and one previous release:

  • Chrome
  • Firefox
  • Safari
  • Internet Explorer

The first time you start a video call on your computer, you have to grant Hangouts the right to use your camera and microphone. You need to download and install the Hangouts plugin on any browser other than Chrome.

Other Requirements

You need the following to make calls in Google Hangouts:

  • A Google account. You already have one if you use Gmail.
  • Devices for hearing and speaking if you are using a computer without a camera and microphone—a headset with a mic, most likely.
  • A good broadband connection. The ideal speed is between 3.2 and 4.0 Mbps (or faster) depending on the number of participants. 

Starting a Video Call

Hangouts calling through Gmail and Google.
 Google

When you're ready to make your first voice or video call:

  1. Go to your Hangouts page or to the sidebar in Gmail.

  2. Click the name of a person in the contacts list. Click additional names to start a group video call.

  3. Click the video camera icon.

  4. Enjoy your video call. When you're finished, click the End call icon, which looks like a hung-up telephone receiver.

Text and Voice Calling

Text chatting is the default in Hangouts or Gmail. Select the name of a person in the left panel to open a chat window, which works just like any other chat window. To place a voice call instead of a text, select a person's name in the contacts list in the left panel and click the upright phone receiver to start the call.

What It Costs

Hangouts voice and video calls are free, provided you are communicating with a person who is also using Google Hangouts. This way the call is fully internet-based. You can also call landline and mobile numbers and pay VoIP rates. You use Google Voice for this. The rate per minute for the calls is much lower than for cellular or landline calls. 

For example, calls to the United States and Canada are free when they originate from the U.S. and Canada. From elsewhere, they're charged as little as one cent per minute. There are a handful of destinations that cost one cent per minute, others two cents, while others have higher rates. You can check Google Voice rates online. 

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