Google Voice coming to Hangouts? No, thanks!

Marc Flores
 from San Francisco, CA
Published: July 9, 2013

Google Hangouts is going to get voice calling. Again. For many of you, that's a good thing. You can communicate via text or video in Hangouts, so why not be able to make voice calls, too? After all, Google intends to make Hangouts your one-stop shop for all your communication needs. You can't rely on Hangouts for that if it lacks a basic feature like voice calling. Perhaps soon your Google Voice apps will disappear and get folded into Hangouts, too. But as for me, if I see incoming calls in any form, whether it's through the phone app or Google Voice or Skype, I typically ignore it. I don't want to talk on the phone with you.

Unless it's important or business related, I really hate being on the phone. I have this idea in my head--more of a myth, actually--that I'm so busy and perpetually occupied that I don't have time to talk on the phone with you. Outside of work, my phone calls don't last longer than five minutes. It's actually more likely that they don't last more than one minute, but definitely never longer than five. And it's not like I can't spare five minutes to chat with someone--I'll sit at my computer and watch five-minute video on YouTube about cooking Beef Wellington before I spend that time talking to a friend on the phone. I don't dislike my friends, but why not just send me a text message? I can read it and respond while learning how cold puff pastry has to be before you wrap it around mushrooms, pâté and a steak. 

This led me to wonder how many people actually spend a great deal of time talking on the phone anymore. We're often in an unbroken stream of communication with each other via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and other social networks, so what's left to talk about if we end up on the phone? For that matter, I often find my friends glued to their phones when we're at a restaurant or hanging out in a bar or at a party. If you aren't even going to face me while talking when we're two feet away from each other, there's no way I can expect to have your undivided attention when we're on the phone, either. I'd hate to admit it, but the reverse is probably also true. In the past, I'd be on conference calls that would last nearly an hour and I'd sit at home with my headset on while maintaining my killer 3:1 k/d ratio on Modern Warfare 3.

There are always going to be instances when you're going to have to talk on the phone. Maybe you might even enjoy it, or you wouldn't mind it, at the very least. Grandma isn't on Facebook (or she just might be these days), and you don't get to see your family from overseas very often, so it's with those people that you'd probably want to sit and have an actual chat. Again, outside of those special cases with special people, you're probably on the phone because you have to be (e.g. with coworkers, customer service reps, interviews).

I'm also curious about your buying habits when it comes to cell phone plans. Back in 2004, I had a girlfriend who wanted to spend hours on the phone with me (speakerphone and battery life were critical buying features for me since I rarely paid attention). One of the few carriers I could consider at the time was Cingular, formerly AT&T and now AT&T all over again, because of those glorious rollover minutes. We definitely tried to stick within our minute plan ranges, and kept the majority of our calls after 9 p.m. so that it didn't count towards our 450 minute allotment. For one month, I even paid the extra money to have my nights and weekends start at 7:00 p.m. What a crazy time it was! But what's interesting is that we have more free minutes than ever, and we're talking on the phone a lot less than we were just years ago. Is it because messaging apps and social networks took over?

It's not going to hurt me to have voice calling features in Hangouts, or if Google Voice ends up getting absorbed into the Hangouts app. But I will go a little crazy if I start getting more phone calls because of it. How about you?

Photo of President Obama probably wanting to get off the phone already courtesy of Acclaim Images.