If you use Google Voice to manage your phone calls and text messages, you can now use it to place free calls from your computer as well.
The new feature comes through integration with Google Hangouts. To access it in Google Voice, click the “Call” button, then select “Hangouts” in the “Phone to call with” drop-down box.
Although Google already offers free Hangouts calls in Gmail and Google+, the Google Voice integration is noteworthy for a couple of reasons.
First, it’s a sign that there’s still some life left in Google Voice, which adds features like call screening and web-based voicemail on top of your basic phone service. Last March, Voice was rumored to be on its deathbed as Google rolls all communications into its Hangouts app. But on laptops and desktops, Hangouts is just a feature within other Google services, rather than a standalone app as it is on Android and iOS. Maybe Google will consolidate all its Hangouts tie-ins someday, but for now Voice seems to be sticking around.
It’s also amusing that Google’s Alex Wiesen, in announcing the feature on Google+, pointed out how making a Hangouts call “doesn’t require a Google+ account,” almost like that’s a feature. At one point, Google was requiring that new products integrate with its social network, but lately the company has been moving in the opposite direction, de-emphasizing Google+ where possible.