What Google Hangouts is and How to Talk Online

Last updated: February 1, 2017 - 4:15pm EST

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 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!

What is Google Hangouts?

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

How does Google Hangouts work?

Google Hangouts works with your Google account, allowing you to communicate with your Google contacts through text messages, video chats and voice calls. A great thing about Google Hangouts is if you’re on the go, you can start a Hangouts session on your computer, and seamlessly continue it on your mobile device.

5 key features of Google Hangouts

1. Access Google Hangouts on a variety of devices.

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!

Google Hangouts mobile app view

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

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

Send text messages in Google Hangouts

4. Have some face time with your Google contacts with 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 invite other people to the discussion (contacts or otherwise), or share what your computer screen looks like with everyone else in the chat!

Google Hangouts video call screen

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

You can also 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.

Google Hangouts phone call screen

The history of Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts was first introduced by Google back in 2013, as a means of replacing Google Talk and Google+ Messenger. Since Google combined its various messaging and calling interfaces into one, Google Hangouts has been able to compete with other popular messaging apps, like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Is Google Hangouts free?

Google Hangouts is free to sign up for and use. All you need is a Google account, and you’re all set! You can send text messages, photos, and make voice or video calls – all for free. If you’d like to use Google Hangouts on your mobile device or tablet, you can download the Hangouts app for free as well.

If you want to learn more about the costs associated with Google Hangouts, check out our article on the cost of Google Hangouts here.

Is Google Hangouts safe?

Google Hangouts is generally safe to use. Messages sent and calls made through Google Hangouts are encrypted, so your privacy remains intact. For your own safety, be sure to only answer Google Hangouts messages and call requests from people you know and trust. Other than that, you should be all good!

To learn more about the safety of Google Hangouts, read our article here.

Pros and Cons of Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is great because it’s really an all-in-one communication tool – it allows users to send each other text messages and photos, and make video or voice calls. It’s also easily accessible on a variety of devices, so you can use it at home or on-the-go! If you have an account for Gmail, YouTube, or one of Google’s other services, you’re already all set to use Google Hangouts. Best of all, the service is completely free.

On the negative side, although it’s great that Google Hangouts can be used on lots of different devices, it’s a little inconsistent in terms of how it functions on different devices, which can be a bit of a pain. Also, since Google Hangouts requires you to have/create a Google account, you’ll end up getting tied into using Google’s other services as well – this isn’t really a con if you enjoy using Google’s services anyway, but if you only want to use Hangouts it could be a little annoying.

To learn more about the pros and cons of Google Hangouts, and to help you determine if Google Hangouts will meet your needs for a communication platform, check out our article where we review Google Hangouts.

Alternatives to Google Hangouts

There are tons of online communication tools available, so if Google Hangouts isn’t what you’re looking for, don’t worry. Another option you might want to consider is Skype, which is owned and run by Microsoft. Other great alternatives include WeChat and Viber. You can learn about these alternatives and a few more if you check out our article on the best alternatives to 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 the rest of our Google Hangouts course, we'll show you how to download and install Google Hangouts, how to use each of its basic functions, and whatever else you’ll need to become a Hangouts instant pro!

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