Google Mashes Up Gmail and Google Voice, Makes U.S./Canada Calls Free

By  |  Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 10:38 am

I try to restrain myself from calling any new tech product or service a killer. But Google just announced that it’s integrating Google Voice into Gmail, turning its e-mail service into a fully Web-based Voice-over-IP system that lets you talk to people with landlines and cell phones all over the world. And…well, it looks like it could be an awfully compelling Skype alternative. Especially since calls to cell phones and landlines in the U.S. and Canada that you’d pay for with Skype are free.

The integration adds a cool new feature to Gmail, but as a long-time Google Voice addict, I’m even more excited about what it does for that service. Now those of us with Google Voice numbers can use it in a new way, and without burning through mobile phone minutes.

A few details on the service, which rolls out today to U.S. Gmail users (Google Apps Gmail accounts aren’t yet supported, alas):

–Google says it has no plans to charge for calls within the U.S. and Canada; ones to dozens of other countries are two cents a minute;

–You can both make outgoing calls to landlines and receive incoming ones; both types are integrated with your Gmail address book;

–As before, Google Voice can ring multiple phones at once in order to reach you wherever you are–it’s just that one of the “phones” it can now ring (once you’ve enabled the option) is Gmail;

–You don’t need a Google Voice phone number to make calls;

–You can switch calls back and forth between the Gmail interface and cell phones or landlines;

–Google is touting the audio quality–and says that it’s great even if you just use your computer’s built-in microphone and speakers rather than a headset;

–The feature uses technology from both the Google Talk voice chat feature and Gizmo5, a VoIP company which Google bought last year;

–Google doesn’t have anything to say about the interesting idea of integrating Google Voice into the version of Gmail for mobile phones (you can already use Google Voice on your phone, but it’s making and receiving standard calls, not free VoIP ones);

–It also isn’t saying anything about a Google Voice app for PCs or Macs (which seems like it might be especially handy for incoming calls–right now, you need to have Gmail open and switch to it to answer a call);

–Google plans to install red Google Voice phone booths–yes, phone booths–at airports and college campuses to let folks try the service.

The interface for all this looks very straightforward: The existing Google Chat toolbar in Gmail now lets you place calls, and there are a dialpad and an incoming call alert that pop up in Gmail’s lower right-hand corner. A few fuzzy images from Google’s presentation:

And here’s Mashable’s Ben Parr trying out a Google Voice phone booth:

More thoughts once I’ve had a chance to try the service myself. If you’ve got access, give it a try and let us know what you think.


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18 Comments For This Post

  1. John Baxter Says:

    Let's see–the same GMail contacts list that Google outed for me when they sprang Buzz on us would now include phone numbers (which I deliberately kept out of GMail contacts even before the Buzz fiasco.

    That said, I do like Google Voice, and will play with this.


  2. Matt Says:

    Just showed up for me – I did a test call to my cell phone and it came through perfectly (showed up as my Google Voice number). Very cool.

  3. SteveW Says:

    "Google says it has no plans to charge for calls within the U.S. and Canada"

    Actually the Google blog you linked to says the following, "Calls to the U.S. and Canada will be free for at least the rest of the year". Similarly, the blurb that appeared when I logged in to Gmail mentioned that the calls will be free for 2010.

  4. Iram Says:

    i wish they dont start charging for calls in USA and Canada after 2010..

  5. Rahul Says:

    My google app account also got this feature.

  6. konbon Says:

    If I make a call from the US to Canada, I know it is free for me but will the person I'm calling in Canada have to pay an international rate?

  7. Ryan Says:

    Umm, why would they? You are calling them.

    Incidentally – I just used this to make a handful of calls from my office this morning… I don't have a desk phone, so I've been relying on Skype to do it, and I have to say, the GMail voice quality is WAY better.

  8. snoop911 Says:

    With Google voice, the capability to call out within U.S. has always been there… so is the big news that it's integrated into Gmail's chat?

  9. Harry McCracken Says:

    Yes, except that the new feature makes it easier to use Google Voice without spending any money at all (if you use it with a cell phone without unlimited minutes, you're eating up minutes).


  10. snoop911 Says:

    It would be nice if they gave gizmo5 some love. Despite calls being free with gmail/voice, if you want to call out using gizmo5, I still need to buy credits. I use gizmo5 with a voip box, and receive calls at home when someone dials my gv number.

    By the way, if you're online oversees, is calling out to the u.s. free? Or is it only open to those ip's that originate the call from within the u.s.?

  11. Ryan Says:

    As far as I can tell, it doesn't matter where you are, you can call the US/Canada for free.

  12. snoop911 Says:

    Looks like it's only for u.s… but there is a workaround:

  13. Ryan Says:

    Umm, worked fine for me here in Canada.

  14. elie Says:

    My reply comes a bit late, but i use it in Lebanon and works just fine (calling the US and Canada for free).
    Did the sms texting service work? can't find any related button.

  15. free phone numbers g Says:

    Fantastic Post! I especially like the discussion related to google's free phone numbers service, and am excited to give it a try! Thanks!

  16. ema Says:

    it is no longer free anymore right?

  17. Ryan Waddell Says:

    Nope, still free. I just made a call with it yesterday

  18. Feminist Says:

    How do I receive incoming calls with Google voice? I see no way to do it. I've been using this service for 3 months.