I've been reading about ways to call home for free via wifi from Europe to the United States here on the forums. I've installed Google Hangouts with the Hangouts Dialer on my android phone and it seems to work very well. Does anyone have experience using it in Europe? Are most wifi hotspots at hotels & restaurants fast enough to use this? If I add Google Voice to my phone I could also receive calls. Has anyone used Voice? Thanks
Time Warner has a good VOIP app that my wife and I have used that works great but I think you have to have a Time Warner landline in the states for it to work.
Yes, I have. I have been using Google Voice for years as my primary phone number in the US. I have used it in Europe but not with Hangouts. (You can use Google Voice + Gmail on a laptop computer kind of like Skype to make phone calls, using your laptop as a speaker phone.) I had an old, slow Android phone the last time I was in Europe but also had T-Mobile so didn't need Google Hangouts. I have been using Hangouts in the US now for a few months on my new Android phone and will use Hangouts the next time I get to Europe.
I used T-Mobile WiFi Calling - same idea as Google Hangouts and Skype - a few times to make long calls home from Europe, once at the Amsterdam airport, other times at restaurants and Starbucks with free WiFI. Quality was surprisingly good though not perfect. (I've since dumped T-Mobile.) Occasionally you get a fade-out and the person may lose you for a second ("Can you hear me now?") but it comes back if you are patient. I have used Hangouts in the US in the same way and had the same kind of experiences: quality is generally good but you may lose the person briefly now and then. Just be patient and it works fine.
Important thing to understand about Google Voice: it's both an app (on your phone) and a Google service that gives you a phone number. Sign up for Google Voice and get a phone number and you can use it with both the Google Voice app on your phone and with Google Hangouts to make receive calls. The Google Voice app (not the service) works only in the US (or maybe in Canada?) because it uses phone minutes, not WiFi or data, to make/receive calls; Google has "relay" phone numbers it uses to make these calls, and you can't use those relay numbers while outside the US. Google Hangouts is different; it uses WiFi or data, not cell minutes, so it will work anywhere in the world.
Go ahead and sign up for Google Voice and get a phone number. You need to give Google your existing cell number to make it work. Then install Hangouts, which will automatically use your Google Voice number. Try using Hangouts on WiFi and see how it works for you. It should work about the same in Europe on WiFi.
I think Google has recently removed text messing from the Hangouts app. I don't text much. Google Voice also forwards text messages directly to my email anyway, and I think I can just reply as I would to an email to respond to a text received on my Google Voice number.
I've been wondering the same thing. There are instructions at https://support.google.com/hangouts/answer/6079064 for setting this up. If you try it, let us know how it works!
You can setup Google Hangouts now and try it without leaving the US. It will work the same in Europe. If you don't need to receive phone calls - just make them - you don't even need a Google Voice account (which would give you a US phone number people could call to reach you on Google Hangouts).
I would assume Skype is the major competitor to Google Hangouts?
Yes, Microsoft's Skype is a competitor to Google Hangouts. But Skype is not free to call real phones in the US, nor does Microsoft give you a free phone number the way Google does. You can get a US phone number from Microsoft Skype for $18 / 3 months and then use that in Europe (or anywhere you can get online) to receive unlimited incoming calls (free after the $18), but calling out is extra. Google offers both of those free with Hangouts , at least to make calls to/from the US (even to landlines, not just to others who have Hangouts installed). Like Skype, you can make international calls with Hangouts for a small per-minute fee, and you can buy Google credit just like you can buy Skype credit for that.
Thanks everyone for the replies. Hangouts was already installed on my Samsung S5 and I added the Hangouts Dialer app. I set up a Google Voice phone number and the Hangouts app on my phone intergrated with it. I didn't install the Google Voice app on my phone as I didn't see it as necessary. After changing a few settings in Hangouts I'm allowing Hangouts to manage the incoming calls and texts from my new Google Voice phone number. From my pc I went to my Google Voice account and under phones I unchecked my cell phone's number so all calls from my Google Voice number only "ring" via my phone's Hangouts app. Before I did that it was quite confusing when my phone would ring at the same time Hangouts would ring. Like Andrew said I will be able to use my phone on wifi in Europe to call and receive calls from cell phones and landlines in the US. I'll also be able to text cell phones in the US. The thing I like about it, other than it's all free, is that by using a Google Voice phone number with Hangouts the person I'm calling/texting doesn't need to install Hangouts or have a Google Voice phone number. I've only been playing with it for a day so if anyone has some tips let me know.
Glad you got it set up. I do have the Google Voice app installed on my Android because I use my Google Voice phone number as my primary number. So when I call out, I want the other phone's caller ID to show my Google number, not my actual cell number. I could do this with Hangouts dialer too, except that that will use mobile data if I'm not on WiFi, but the Google Voice app uses just phone minutes (by relaying as I said above to Google's US phone numbers). So I won't use mobile data when I'm making/receiving calls. This won't work in Europe of course - over there I'll have to use Hangouts.
I actually have two cell phones - one as a spare (basically a "free" phone - but that's another story). They have different phone numbers, but both are on my Google Voice account. When someone calls my Google number, both phones ring - like having two different house phones.