7 best alternatives to Google Hangouts

For people in the United States, a move to Google Voice makes sense, but the free version of Google Voice isn't available everywhere. Here are some additional options to explore.

Photo of classic Hangouts, with Phone icon circled in red, with arrow to handwritten text, "Gone. Other options?"

Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

As Google continues its quest to replace classic Hangouts and moves features and functions to other apps, some app transitions are apparent. Need video conferencing? Use Meet. Need individual or group discussions? Use Chat. Currently a Google Fi customer? Switch back to that and maybe the Messages By Google app. Need phone calling? Go with Google Voice. Transition done. The features of an all-in-one app split into five (or so) other apps.

Google Voice as a classic Hangouts replacement presents a bit of a challenge. Put simply, classic Hangouts phone calling worked in the U.S. and Canada, but free Google Voice numbers and features were available only in the United States. That means people in Canada who may have relied on the classic Hangouts phone call feature unfortunately can't switch to the free version of Google Voice.

Several services let you place and receive calls from a number other than the phone number provisioned to your device by your mobile carrier. That's convenient, since it allows people to protect the privacy of a personal device's phone number, while also making it possible to manage calls for a second number for work, for example. If you used classic Hangouts for phone calls, the following options are potential alternatives. 

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Google Voice for personal use

For people in the U.S., the simplest option may be to sign up for a free personal Google Voice account. Google Voice lets you place and receive calls from your assigned Google Voice number on the web or with mobile apps (Android and iOS) (Figure A). It's an excellent way to add a second phone number for calls.

Figure A 

Screenshot of Google Voice page with text, "Smart voice calling on all your devices" and "A smarter phone number" displayed at the bottom of the screen.

Google Voice is the obvious choice for people in the United States who need an alternative to phone calling in classic Hangouts.

Workspace with Google Voice

As of now, if you're in Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, U.K. or much of the U.S., you might consider Google Workspace with Google Voice (Figure B). This is Google's business-oriented phone service that works well with Workspace, and can scale to handle a variety of business-oriented needs, such as call forwarding, ring groups and multi-level auto-attendant routing.

This option requires you to be a paying Workspace customer. First, you'll need a Google Workspace plan, which starts at $6 per user, per month for the Business Starter edition. Then, to that you'll add a Voice subscription, for as little as $10 per user, per month for Google Voice Starter edition. Upgrade options that offer more features are available for both Workspace and Voice.

Figure B 

Screenshot of Google Workspace page for Google Voice with text "Stay connected, organized, and on task with an easy-to-use phone solution that fits organizations of any size."

Currently, Google Workspace with Google Voice is available in 13 countries around the world, including the U.S. and Canada.

Third-party phone services

Second number providers generally seek to serve either individual/personal use or business use. The distinction tends to be whether the service lets an administrator centrally manage multiple numbers, as well as whether or not the service offers advanced features. For example, Google Voice serves both: the free Voice offering in the U.S. serves individual/personal needs, while Workspace with Voice scales to serve large enterprises in several countries.

Individual or personal phone number providers, such as Burner or TextNow, focus on letting an individual gain a second number to use (Figure C). Both of these work in both the U.S. and Canada. Burner offers monthly (roughly $5 per line, per month) and yearly subscription options, as well as prepaid options for minutes and texts. SmartLine supports calling to U.S. numbers only, and starts at about $10 per month and also offers SmartLine Toll Free for about $20 per month. TextNow works in both the U.S. and Canada, and offers a free, ad-supported option, with an approximately $10 per month plan to remove ads—additional upgrade options for more features are available.

Figure C 

Screenshot of Android app page from Google Play store for Burner - Private Phone Line for Texts and Calls (left) and TextNow: Free Texting & Calling App (right).

Services focused on individuals include Burner (left) and TextNow (right).

Small business or enterprise-scale providers, such as Dialpad, Grasshopper and RingCentral, are intended for use by more than one person (Figure D). Grasshopper, for example, tends to focus on small teams, with their pricing plans highlighting options for one, three and five phone numbers. 

RingCentral and Dialpad both offer a wide range of plans, including some aimed at small businesses, with other options intended to handle all of an organization's messaging, calling and video conferencing needs in many places around the world.

Figure D 

Screenshot of Android app page from Google Play store for Dialpad (left), Grasshopper (middle), and RingCentral: Msg, Video, Phone (right).

Business-targeted solutions include Dialpad (left), Grasshopper (middle) and RingCentral (right).

Which option do you use? 

If you used Hangouts' phone calling features, which alternative do you use? Any of the above options? Why? Is there another solution you selected or that you recommend? Let me know what calling solution you transitioned to after classic Hangouts removed phone features, either with a comment below or on Twitter (@awolber). 

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