A Few Observations About Gmail's New Phone Feature

By  |  Friday, August 27, 2010 at 10:52 pm

I’ve been using Gmail’s new free voice calling feature over the past couple of days. For a while, I thought that the Google Buzz blowup proved it was a bad idea to introduce non-e-mail features into Gmail, period. Now I now that if it’s the right feature done the right way, it can make perfect sense.

Quick notes:

  • The quality–on the calls I’ve made so far, at least–is sensational, and seemingly so on both ends. I hear the other party just great, he or she hears me, and there’s zero lag time. All using the microphone and speakers built into my MacBook, no headset required. It’s like having a speakerphone, except I’ve never encountered a speakerphone that sounds this good.
  • Making calls from within Gmail works well; receiving them has its complications. For one thing, you need to make sure that Gmail is open, and that it’s in a tab you can get to quickly when your browser starts to ring. For another, if you mute your laptop’s speakers and aren’t in Gmail when a call comes in, there’s no way to tell someone’s trying to reach you. (I’d love to see Google release a bit of notification software that would get your attention even when you’re in another app.)
  • It would be nice to see more comprehensive integration of Gmail and Google Voice, or at least parity in terms of phone features. For instance, being able to check voice messages from within Gmail would be a plus. And shouldn’t you be able to make PC calls from within Google Voice itself? (It has a calling feature, but it does something different: It rings both you and the person you want to talk to on your standard phones.)

It’s been a while since a new Google service has really changed the way I get work done. This one could do the trick…


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6 Comments For This Post

  1. @cyberdoyle Says:

    Google voice and video has been around for ages within the gmail interface. The new calling service is even better because you can call a phone with it. I have made calls from UK to USA and they are as clear as a bell and non dependent on the other party even having a computer let alone having it switched on. Well done google is all I can say. Mega.

  2. Chris Says:

    To Listen to voicemail mesasges in gmail just turn it on in the labs section.

  3. Alan Ralph Says:

    @cyberdoyle – are you able to use it in the UK still? I got the notification about the new feature the other night, but according to Google this was an accident, and the service is still currently US-only.

  4. John Baxter Says:

    I'm hopeful. However, my first "real" call was good quality (the other end mentioned clicking now and then when I asked). But, after several minutes, there was a breakdown of some sort. Listening on my end I heard an on/off sequence with a period of about 2 seconds (1 second on; one off). I'm not sure the other end heard me at all. The problem was likely one-time, and I'll be trying again.

    That was on an iMac with headset, with about 15 megabits down and 2 mb up.

    I killed the call and redialed on my land line (it was a local call).

  5. 3d tv Says:

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  6. gadgets reviews Says:

    I'm not sure the other end heard me at all. The problem was likely one-time, and I'll be trying again.