For years now, U.S.-based Google users have been able to fire up Gmail
in a web browser on their computer and phone friends in both the U.S. and Canada at no charge. To boot, that's regardless of location; so long as you have a stable Internet connection, your Gmail window can act as your telephone. Unfortunately, the service didn't extend beyond the desktop. The mobile Gmail app (and even the Google Voice app for iPhone) still doesn't offer this, which led to third-party apps
such as Talkatone being created to plug the obvious hole.
Now, however, Google
is addressing the issue in an interesting way. Instead of patching the Google Voice app, it has massively updated the iOS edition of Hangouts. The refreshed build works for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, enabling users to make and receive calls over 3G and Wi-Fi. Calls to Canada and the U.S. and free, and international calls are dirt cheap. Plus, as long as you have the app running, you can receive calls in the background, just as you would a typical phone call.
If you're a Google Voice user, you can make and receive calls from any of your iOS devices with today's update. Outgoing calls will come from your Google Voice number, and incoming Voice calls can be answered from Google+ Hangouts.
Voice minutes are becoming less and less useful because of programs such as this, and honestly, we couldn't be more thrilled. Long live data.