Nowadays there are many ways to enjoy the benefits of internet-based telephony. The most logical method is to subscribe to a VoIP service, which not only provides enterprise-grade features for everyone but does so for ridiculously low prices. The other option is the one that most users prefer because of the familiarity of the services, namely using an instant messaging app like Skype, Facebook Messenger or Google Hangouts, all of which have some VoIP functionality.
As a matter of fact, Google Hangouts in particular is an excellent solution for anyone who’d like to make cheap or free of charge calls while also being able to chat with other Hangouts users. And while the app’s call handling abilities are not very spectacular, when its main function of chatting is combined with a true VoIP service it can indeed become an unbeatable communications platform.
Why Is Google Hangouts Just a Pseudo VoIP Provider?
Before we discuss how Hangouts can work in tandem with cloud phone systems it’s best to clarify one thing: Google Hangouts is not a true VoIP service provider, but an instant messaging app that handles phone calls as well. As such it’s worth highlighting that the app’s VoIP functionality only works as it should when calls are between other Hangouts users – and it that regard Hangouts doesn’t differ at all from other instant messaging programs.
Problems arise when it comes to calling phone numbers. Although outbound calls can be placed from Google Hangouts without any hassle – in a similar fashion to a prepaid mobile subscription – users that also want to receive calls through Hangouts are obliged to register a new virtual phone number at Google Voice. This is already a questionable move considering that Google Voice is unavailable for anyone outside of the U.S., but knowing that the service is on the verge of being discontinued altogether only strengthens the idea that the whole thing seems like a huge waste of time.
Google overcomplicates things by forcing users to have a phone number registered with a service that may be ultimately be discontinued in the future just to make Hangouts work like a true VoIP service. And take into consideration that the only thing Hangouts is slightly better at than any regular landline or mobile provider is its call rates, then it seems that using the app as a VoIP service in its current state just isn’t worth the effort.
Combining VoIP With Hangouts
Google Hangouts admittedly has still a long way to go until it can handle calls the same way that true VoIP service providers can, but as an instant messaging platform it is a true gem for both regular and business users.
Hangouts can also be used for both audio or video conferences, which could be a great alternative to the pay-only solutions of cloud phone systems. However, remember that most of the time the conferencing feature of VoIP services is even better than the what is provided by Hangouts. So it’s basically a catch 22: to further streamline a business you need to have Hangouts for instant messaging and a cloud phone system for virtually unlimited conferencing, but due to the lack of proper integration there is currently no option to handle chat and conferencing under the same platform.
Thankfully, though, there are signs that Hangouts and its business-grade equivalent, Hangouts Chat, will soon become an integral part of VoIP services. And the prime candidate for this endeavor is RingCentral, an undeniable champion when it comes to integrating third party solutions.
Although the company already has Glip, a separate app that is eerily similar to Hangouts, as of February 2018 all RingCentral subscribers that have RingCentral Meetings downloaded can add the company’s chatbot to Google Hangouts Chat. After being given the necessary command, this chatbot will automatically create an audio or video conference bridge and provide the required instructions for all members of a group chat so that they can continue their conversation face-to-face.
This way not only can users initiate audio/visual meetings without the need to leave Hangouts Chats – or to use Google’s own solution, Hangouts Meet – but they can also enjoy the vastly superior conferencing features of RingCentral. This means access to crystal-clear voice and video feeds for up to 75 participants at the same time and the option to share screens with one another, features that just aren’t available via a solely Google-based VoIP solution.
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