Rumor Mill: Google to move Google Voice functionality to Hangouts

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) will drop its Google Voice service and move most of its functionality into its Hangouts apps for both Android and iOS, according to a 9to5Google report, which did not cite its sources.

According to the report, the ability to make VoIP calls is expected to be integrated into the Hangouts iOS and Android apps so that, just as on the web version of Hangouts, users can make and receive VoIP calls directly from a Google phone number. It's unclear if or when that will be made public, though Google's I/O developer conference in late June could be a target. A Google spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Google's current iOS Hangouts app lets users call phone numbers for free in the U.S. and Canada using their Google Voice number.

Google Voice, which was launched in 2009, directs a user's calls and text messages through a single phone number provided by Google Voice. It also lets users route incoming calls to various (and multiple) phones, as well as manage those calls based on the caller's number, get transcripts of voicemails and record calls while they're in progress and then access them online later. Since 2011 Sprint (NYSE:S) has supported Google Voice free of charge.

In May 2013 Google unveiled Hangouts, which collects text, image and video conversations into one service and essentially represented Google's response to the growth of messaging apps like WhatsApp (which Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is acquiring), Viber and BlackBerry's (NASDAQ:BBRY) BBM. Hangouts replaced Google Talk and G+ Messenger.

Meanwhile, in other over-the-top news, OTT messaging service Line announced a new calling service allowing people with Line accounts to make voice calls direct to landlines and cell phones from the Line app. The service, LINE Call, will initially be available in eight markets: the United States, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Columbia, Thailand, Philippines, and Spain. Line said it plans to roll out the service to other countries in the future.

The company said that people with the latest version of the Line app installed on their Android device and who have a registered phone number on their Line account can begin using Line Call without any additional setup. The service will be available on iOS "shortly," Line said.

As of February, Line said it had 340 million users, but it did not say how many of them are active.

WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum said in February the company plans to introduce voice calling services sometime in the second quarter. The company hopes to roll out its new voice-calling service first to Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS and Google's Android and then later to Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone and some BlackBerry phones. Koum didn't provide many details on the service or a more specific launch date when he made the announcement during a keynote appearance at the Mobile World Congress trade show. WhatsApp counts 465 million monthly active users and 330 million daily active users.

For more:
- see this 9to5Google article
- see this Gizmodo article
- see this release
- see this TechCrunch article
- see this Engadget article

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