Google introduced phone call capabilities through Gmail back in August. Google promised calls in the US and Canada would be free until the end of 2010. On December 20th, Google announced Gmail phone calls would be free until the end of 2011. They must have been moved by the holiday spirit.
Gmail Extends Free Calls through 2011
Call quality is pretty good. It isn’t as clear as a Skype call, but it’s free. With Skype, it is only free if it is a Skype to Skype call. With Google, you don’t have to call another Gmail account holder for it to be free. You can access the feature by turning Google Chat on in your Gmail account, on the left side of the screen, and then click on the “Call Phone” feature. Dial your contact’s phone number and you are good to go. You can use your laptops built in microphone and speakers, or for better clarity, use a headset with microphone.
One of every four American homes has only wireless telephones, according to the National Health Interview Survey. We have cut the landline tether. Most of us have no need for a home fax, and it’s cheaper to only have one phone service. Of course that only works if you have a cell phone provider that offers good reception where you live. AT&T cell phone service can be sketchy. In many areas, AT&T mobile drops your calls or the calls are full of static. Believe it or not, San Francisco is a terrible area for AT&T mobile phone connection. This of course doesn’t bode well for the AT&T iPhone. But the landline and DSL connections through AT&T seem fine for the most part. So by using your DSL and Gmail, you can now make reliable calls. I have a Google Voice account (which isn’t required to make calls), so I can also receive calls in Gmail. When I dial out, my calls look like they’re coming from my Google Voice number.
Will Gmail be able to compete with Skype? Skype clearly has the market share for computer calling. Skype is also free, but just for Skype to Skype calls. This is especially nice for those international calls that cost so much. Both Google and Skype also do video calls but I haven’t tried the Google video call yet. Side by side, the only advantages I see to using the Gmail calling over Skype is that you don’t have to call another member, and it is already loaded up in my Gmail account making it very accessible.
I’m willing to give Gmail calling a good try. What about you? Do you have a Gmail account? If not, you ought to try it. You can pick up all your email through Gmail, not just Gmail. If you have an Android phone, chances are you already have a Google account. It certainly makes life easier for me to be able to log into only one place to check all my various email accounts. Try it, you’ll like it.