If you’re like me (and I like to think I’m fairly representative of the average Joe) then you probably use Google’s tools to manage email, contacts, calendars, documents and the like. If you’re not like me then perhaps some hot new functionality in Gmail will persuade you over to the dark side. For a while, Gmail users have been able to voice and video chat with each other computer-to-computer, but as of yesterday, users can initiate VoIP calls directly from within Gmail to any phone. Oh, and calls to phones in the U.S. are free.
All you have to do to make a call is click the “Call phone” button which will appear at the top of your chat list in Gmail. Doing so brings up a keypad that you can either use to dial a number or search for a contact. Google Voice users can have their number displayed as the outgoing caller ID, and can also choose to answer calls to their number from within Gmail.
Personally, I haven’t found Google Voice terribly useful (I only have one phone that I use), but this functionality might change my mind. Having a unique number to send a receive calls with from within Gmail is a very interesting idea to me. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this functionality made available on Android devices soon as well – a move that would be decidedly epic.
This is huge. Google is setting its sights on Skype with a power play that significantly undercuts the popular VoIP provider’s call rates. Skype currently charges a connection fee and a per-minute price on all calls (including those in the U.S.), while Google is only charging a per-minute charge on international calls. Calls in the U.S. are free “for at least the rest of the year,” and international calls are competitively priced, says Google.
Calling functionality is being slowly rolled out to Gmail users over the next few days, so don’t go bonkers if you don’t have it yet.
(Via The Official Gmail Blog)