How to Make Free and Low-Cost Calls With Google Hangouts

By Dustin Main Get Connected4 Comments

For the longest time, Skype has been the go-to way for making calls online. It’s become such a big part of the way we communicate that it’s even turned into a generic word covering all online voice and video chat, just like xerox, band-aid, and jello.

Not bad for a piece of software just over 11 years old. Sometimes being first means a whole lot, and that has been a big part of Skype’s success. In the past few years, Google has been trying to take the wind out of Skype’s sails, and with the latest release of Hangouts it has a new weapon in the battle.

While both offer (and are best known) for video calling, we’re going to be talking about making calls to regular ‘ole phones via the apps.

Hangouts Includes Free Calls to USA & Canada

With the new version of Hangouts on Android release earlier this month, it now joins iOS and Chrome in having the ability to make free voice calls to phone numbers in the USA and Canada right from the app.

That means as long as you have Wi-Fi or a data connection, you’ve got no-charge calls from anywhere in the world to USA/Canada. Calls to other countries have a small charge.




If you’re an Android user, you’re going to need to install two apps to get the dialing functionality. First, grab the Hangouts app, and then the aptly named Hangouts Dialer.  Once installed, you’ll likely have an icon for each, but you only need one. Both of them will do the same thing.

Without the hangouts dialer, you’ll be missing the last tab on the right side of the app.



With Hangouts on iOS, you only need the Hangouts app, and the dialer is built in.  You’ll have to grant Hangouts access to your contacts if you want to call them, otherwise just use the number pad.


Chrome (Browser)

It’s easy to make a call right from your Gmail account. In the left-hand pane below your labels, you’ll find the Hangouts area.


To make a call, click the search icon to bring up a list of your contacts, and then the phone icon to bring up contacts with phone numbers, and the number pad. If you have credit, it’ll show the amount remaining.


There is also a Chrome extension available for Hangouts that will put a Hangouts icon in your system tray as well. This is great if you would rather have a more chat-like interface available on your desktop to always having to open your Gmail for access.

International Rates

In addition to offering free calls in the US and Canada, Google is being very aggressive with their international calling rates as well.  Not only that, but the pricing with Hangouts is much simpler than Skype, with no connection fees to add.

Here’s a look at a few popular countries and how they compare with Skype.

Germany – Mobile$0.04$0.045 + $0.066 connection
Germany – Landline$0.01$0.017 + $0.036 connection
South Africa – Mobile$0.07$0.056 + $0.066 connection
South Africa – Landline$0.03$0.033 + $0.066 connection
UK – Mobile$0.03-0.06$0.074 + $0.066 connection
UK – Landline$0.01$0.017 + $0.036 connection
Singapore – Mobile$0.02$0.017 + $0.036 connection
Singapore – Landline$0.02$0.017 + $0.036 connection

You can add credit through a Google Wallet account in $10 increments, though it appears that you can only do it on the desktop at the moment.


Call Quality

I’ve found that the first few seconds of a call can be a little dicey, but after a couple of seconds you’re good to go. In my experience, it might not be something you want to be using for business calls to new clients who aren’t expecting the odd glitch from someone potentially on the other side of the globe.

Compared to Skype, I’ve found that there is less of the glitchy-type sound that we sometimes associate with Skype during a call. Essentially, if you can get past the first couple of seconds that might be a bit iffy, you’re set.

Calls on both Wi-Fi and 4G were pretty great. It’s not quite the same as a call between two landlines in terms of quality… but who makes landline-to-landline calls any more anyways?

What do you use to make calls when traveling?

About the Author
Dustin Main

Dustin Main


Dustin just can't get enough travel or technology, but when he's not directly feeding one of those insatiable habits, you can probably find him at some far away ice cream shop taking pictures of empty cups. That, or on top of a mountain somewhere shooting photos and finding adventures to share on his website "A Skinny Escape".


  1. Avatar

    If you have a US account and are in, say, Singapore, can you call a US number just fine? Could always use a VPN to appear as if you’re in the US, but I wonder if that’s even necessary.

    1. Dave Dean

      I can’t imagine it’s necessary. I made a call to a US number while sitting in Thailand yesterday, and it was free and worked just fine.

  2. Avatar

    I like the idea of google voice, but have found it choppy and not usable for calling anyone from and to the more remote regions of the world. Thailand was not good, nor KL, Jakarta, New Zealand, Australia. Most of our business is done in S.E.A. so it’s not good enough for us 🙁 I’d love to unify our services and use Voice but it’s not going to happen until that connection is much better. Might as well use skype as most people have an account anyway.

    1. Dustin Main Author

      I think it sometimes just depends on how the wind is blowing that day.

      Recently I was testing both services in Myanmar / Burma which has notoriously poor (awful…) connections. The Hangouts calls were much more reliable and got over the “skyping” sounds that are common at the beginning of calls much quicker.

      So you never know I guess. I hope they both continue to improve and push the technology further and further.

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