In July Google gave Hangouts on the desktop a significant feature bump by rolling in the ability to make phone calls, and now an update to the iOS app is bringing the same functionality to the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Calls are free within the United States and Canada, and users are also able to make and receive calls using their Google Voice number — but the latter gets a bit tricky.
A settings preference will cause incoming Google Voice calls to ring through the Hangouts app, but if you already have your Voice number forwarded to your regular phone you'll actually get two calls simultaneously: one from your iPhone's phone app, and another from Google Hangouts. Unlinking your Google Voice account from your regular number resolves the issue, of course. There's also no voicemail support, so while the new feature is welcome this doesn't appear to be a full Google Voice replacement just yet.
On the regular messaging side, the update allows Hangouts users to send and receive animated GIFs that will play inline as well. Now that Google's ready to bring voice calling to mobile devices we have to imagine Android users will be getting the same ability soon — but for the moment it is on iOS only.
Update: A Google spokesperson let us know that, unlike using the Google Voice app, dialing and placing a call through using the Hangouts app uses data, but not any voice minutes. "If I type in a number, it sends data to Google and then Google actually calls the phone number," said Google in a statement. "This is different from what Google Voice does today (it actually dials a random number). So you're using data, not minutes from your carrier."