Google+ hangouts now support phone calls, too

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Here’s a new feature for you Google+ users: You can now make phone calls from a hangout on Google’s social network.

It’s a great feature for when you want to, say, rope a non-Google+ user into a Google+-powered meeting or conference call.

For example, the VentureBeat team frequently uses hangouts in our weekly staff meetings to wrangle our nationwide staff into face-to-face communication. But for the non-users (me!), we’ve also had to use a separate conference call line. It’s logistically messy, and Google has apparently just made it a lot easier.

The new feature will be available first in hangouts with extras, the hangouts lab where users can help test new features. Calls within the U.S. and Canada are being supported first, and calling is free.

It seems like a small feature; however, enterprise use of hangouts for conference calls and meetings is an important use case for Google+ as a whole. And all those paying Google Apps customers will surely appreciate the added flexibility of phone-friendly hangouts as Google+ moves from an experimental social product to a mature and pervasive backbone for all Google’s web apps.

“Today we’re making it possible to make phone calls from inside a hangout, so you can dial people into the room from wherever they’re at,” Googler Jarkko Oikarinen writes on his Plus profile, noting that it’s “helpful for party lines and conference calls alike.”

Oikarenin goes on to outline the steps for bringing a telephone user into a Google+ hangout:

  1. Start a hangout with extras, and click “Invite” at the top of the window.
  2. Click the Phone tab on the left side of the window. Enter the phone number you are trying to call.
  3. Click “Call now.”

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