How to Use Google Hangouts For Free Wi-Fi Calls and Texts

Posted: November 22, 2014

Hangouts and Dialer
Learning how to use Google Hangouts to make and receive calls over Wi-Fi can save you money and make poor mobile signal inside buildings something you won't have to deal with again. There are three main situations where Wi-Fi calling is helpful:
  1. You use a mobile phone provider that charges overage fees for minutes and texts.
  2. You use a mobile service like Ting, that charges based on actual usage.
  3. You experience poor mobile signal quality in certain buildings, like your home or office, that have Wi-Fi available.

In order to use Wi-Fi calling on your phone there are a few steps to complete first that we will be learning about in this article:

  1. Get a Google Voice number and set it up with your mobile phone.
  2. Install Hangouts and set it up on your device.
  3. Use Hangouts to make and receive calls and texts.

For our international readers, please note that Google only provides Google Voice numbers to people in the United States. You must have a U.S. based phone number to get a Google Voice number.

How to get your own Google Voice number

Go to Google Voice, sign in with your Google account, and follow the prompts to set up a new Google Voice number. You will be asked to enter your current mobile phone number and then verify it by receiving a voice call and entering the two digit passcode provided during the setup process. After you have verified your current mobile number, you will be give the option of choosing a new number for Google Voice.

Depending on your current carrier and location you may also be able to port your mobile number to Google Voice. For the sake of this tutorial we will assume you left your current number as-is and received a new number from Google. Click through the gallery below to see all the steps necessary for setting up a new Google Voice number.

After you have created a new Google Voice number, open the settings panel of Google Voice by clicking the gear icon in the upper right corner followed by Settings.

Google Voice Settings

If you want to strictly use Hangouts over a data connection (Wi-Fi or mobile data) you should turn off call forwarding to your current mobile number by unchecking the box next to your mobile device under the Phones tab. Otherwise, you will get a Hangouts incoming call through the Hangouts app and a regular (forwarded) incoming call at the same time.

Under the Voicemail & Text tab you should turn off email notifications as we will get those through the Hangouts app.

Now that you have a Google Voice number it is already set up to forward calls from your new number to Google Hangouts. For any calls or texts to your new Google Voice number you will be able to answer them on your phone over Wi-Fi or even from a computer. To use your Google Voice number from a computer, download the Hangouts extension for Chrome or the desktop app. With the extension you can send and receive calls and texts to and from any phone numbers in the US for free.

To call and text from your Google Voice number on a mobile phone follow the directions below for Android or iOS.

How to use Hangouts and a Google Voice number on Android

First make sure both Hangouts and the Hangouts dialer are installed on your device.

  1. Open the Hangouts app and tap the menu button in the upper left followed by Settings.
  2. Under Account Settings tap on your account as shown below.
  3. Hangouts app settings Android
  4. Now, under the Google Voice section make sure the boxes next to Incoming phone calls and Messages are checked.
Hangouts incoming calls and messages

You are now all set up to make and receive calls and send and receive texts over Wi-Fi with your Google Voice number.

To make a call open the Hangouts dialer app or simply tap the dialer icon in the upper right corner of the Hangouts app. Enter a contact's name or a number to make a call.

To send a text, tap the chat icon in the upper left and again enter the contact's name to send a text. Receiving calls and texts through Hangouts via your Google Voice number is almost identical to the stock Android experience.

How to use Hangouts and a Google Voice number on iOS

Install the Hangouts app on your iPhone. Once you sign in to Hangouts with your Google account, you can make calls right away by pressing the phone icon in the lower right corner. However, to receive calls from your Google Voice number a few additional steps are required:

  1. Open the Hangouts app and tap the menu button in the upper left corner.
  2. Then tap the Settings section.
  3. Scroll down and tap Phone Number.
  4. Optional: in the settings menu tap the Allow calls section to change whether or not you receive calls over your cellular data connection or just on Wi-Fi.
  5. Hangouts app settings iOS

  6. Finally turn the Incoming phone calls and Messages toggles on so that they turn green.
  7. Hangouts app settings iOS

You will now receive a notification whenever your Google Voice number receives a call. If the phone is locked you simply swipe to the right on the notification to answer the call. If you are using your phone at the time of a call, a notification will drop down from the top of the screen that you can tap to answer.

Different ways to communicate with Hangouts

You may be asking yourself, "OK, I setup Hangouts, and I know I can make calls over Wi-Fi, but what are all these other options?" Hangouts can do quite a bit more than just Wi-Fi calls. You now have 5 different ways to communicate using Hangouts:

  1. Online chat style messaging with other Hangouts users.
  2. Text messaging with your Google Voice number.
  3. Text messaging with your mobile phone number (Android only).
  4. Phone calls with your Google Voice number.
  5. Video calls with other Hangouts users.

Suggestions for getting the most out of Hangouts

  1. Give your Google Voice number to people instead of your carrier's number. Google Voice has a lot of features built-in that you won't find carriers offering for free like call forwarding, number blocking, call recording, voicemail transcription (not always accurate, but almost alway entertaining), automatic detection and rejection of calls from known spammers, call screening, and personalized voicemail greetings for different callers.
  2. Use the Hangouts extension for Chrome. It is so much easier responding to texts on a computer than a phone.
  3. By default all the text and voicemail notification sounds for Hangouts are the same. In the Android Hangouts app go to Settings > your Gmail account > and then change the sounds to differentiate all the different kinds of notifications you can receive.
  4. On Android devices make sure Wi-Fi is always on so you do not inadvertently use mobile data for Hangouts. Go to Settings > Wi-Fi > tap the menu button > Advanced > and change "Keep Wi-Fi on during sleep" to Always.
  5. Use your Google Voice number as a very inexpensive home phone.

If this tutorial was helpful, please share it with others, comment, or give it a 1+ below. If you have any questions about using Hangouts, let us know.

Update: this article was updated April 11, 2016 to reflect the changes that have occurred in the Hangouts apps.

4 comments:

Mary Anne Jumawan said...

So if you are not using us number your calls are not for free Sad

Unknown said...

World wide web. We don't all live in the USA. Articles like this on an international medium like the WWW, should mention at the outset that it only applies to the small portion of world population in a country called America.

conlon_sean said...

You cannot make phone calls on Google Hangouts App on android without having data or your phone enabled! When you place a call with Google Hangouts on android, it forwards you to the dialer on your phone which does not work without having your phone connected to the CELLULAR NETWORK.

Cam Medlin said...

This is not the case on every phone I've tested. We use hangouts in Airplane mode with Wi-Fi on all the time. Do you have hangouts dialer installed and connected to decent Wi-Fi? If so what phone do you have that is doing this?