What is Google Hangouts? + How It Works

Google has a lot of neat online services that make your life easier.  You can send and receive emails through Gmail, store and share your computer files with Google Drive, figure out where you're going with Google Maps, and -- of course -- find things on the Internet that you need to know (about) by using Google Search.  But Google also has a nifty online communication tool called Google Hangouts that allows you to exchange text messages, pictures, and videos with anyone you know who has a Google account.  You can even have live video chats with your Google contacts, or call phone numbers and have a phone call with virtually anyone in the world... all on your computer or mobile device!

So what is Google Hangouts, in a nutshell?

Google Hangouts is an all-in-one online communication tool, available on multiple platforms.  It allows users to find contacts and send them text messages (or pictures or videos), or hold live video chats with them.  It also allows users to hold phone calls with standard phones, though this may cost money to do.

How Google Hangouts works: 5 key features of Google Hangouts

1. Access Google Hangouts from a plethora of different places.

There are lots of different platforms on which you can use Google Hangouts!  You can install it as an app on your smart phone or tablet computer, or add it as an extension to your favourite Internet browser.  You can also use a desktop client for it (if you have the Google Chrome web browser), or use the version that comes built-in to every Gmail account!

How to launch Google Hangouts on your mobile device

2. Google Hangouts is free to get; you just need a Google account.

Google Hangouts is free to download and install for whatever you want to use it on.  Plus, you can use it with a Google account... so if you already use a service like Gmail or Google Drive, you're already pretty much set to use Google Hangouts!

3. Share text messages, pictures, and more with your Google contacts.

Chatting with your contacts on Google Hangouts is simple enough, but why not spice things up?  Add some emoticons, or take a photo of yourself or draw a picture and share that as a message.  You can even sometimes share a video that you found on YouTube, or your current location from your device's GPS signal!

Sending text messages over Google Hangouts

4. Have some face time with your Google contacts via live video chat.

If you have a special camera attached to (or built into) your computer or mobile device, you can also have a face-to-face conversation with one or more of your Google Hangouts contacts via a live video feed.  You can even invite other people to the discussion (contacts or otherwise), or share what your computer screen looks like with everyone else in the chat!

Placing a video call over Google Hangouts

5. Almost anyone is a phone call away through Google Hangouts.

You can even use Google Hangouts to make phone calls to almost anyone in the world, even if they aren't one of your Google contacts!  Most calls to numbers in the United States and Canada are free, and overseas calls have very affordable per-minute rates attached.

Having a phone call over Google Hangouts

 

If you're already a big fan of Google's products, then Google Hangouts is a natural inclusion for your lineup of Google-powered productivity tools.  In our Google Hangouts course, we'll show you how to download and install Google Hangouts for your desktop computer (through Google Chrome) or mobile device, and how to use each of its basic functions: text chat, video calls, and phone calls.  Hang out with the people who matter to you, whichever way you want to, with Google Hangouts!

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More Google Hangouts Tutorials

See all 6 Google Hangouts tutorials

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