I was one of the first to have a Google Voice account, which was nice, but really never went anywhere, because the people I had given the number to found it just as easy to call my cell phone, and, with more and more people having unlimited calling, worrying about phone rates to different area codes is only a problem for a few, so nothing was gained there.

Tonight however, after having a full day and not really getting to read much, I started looking around and found a story about the Google changes, allowing people with Gmail accounts to call anywhere in the USA or Canada absolutely free (at least until the end of the year).

I immediately fired up Opera, and went to my Google mail account. I usually use it as a POP3 account, so it has been awhile since I have seen the interface changes. What a difference! I’ll still be using the POP3 method, as old habits die hard, but I must say this beats the new Windows Live Mail Interface hands down!

Onward. I then went to the bottom left of the screen, and popped up the icon that said Call, to find that I needed to download a voice and dialing module for everything to work properly. After a browser restart, I found that everything was great, and made a couple of phone calls. The quality was great, with no difference perceived from that of when we used to have Vonage. [Wow, I bet Vonage stock dropped today…]  This will be so nice for so many, and though I’m certain there will eventually be a charge, for now it is free and like the drug dealer at the corner, passing out the free samples, Google is going to get more than a few hooked on this.

I read about this in a couple of places, but the first was Neowin

Google’s on a roll lately, releasing various new products and features for a wide range of their products. The latest one that’s incoming is a feature that will allow you to make phone calls from within Gmail.

CNET reports that Google may be turning Gmail into a “communications hub” and adding a fully featured VoIP facility to Gmail, with CNET receiving several screenshots of the new features. The features published show the ability to call the U.S. or Canada for free, as well as being able to top-up your account to call international numbers. The service is launched in the same manner you would initiate a voice call over the Internet using Google Talk now, by clicking in the chat window on the left side of Gmail.

Google’s been working with voice before, with “Google Voice” being available in the U.S. over the last year, a service that allows a user to have one phone number that rings multiple numbers, and with “Google Talk,” its current built-in Gmail voice and chat offering.

The search giant last year bought a VoIP company called “Gizmo5,” a company that specialised in Web based VoIP technology. Other screenshots of the product actually showed up on the Google Operating System Blog in June this year, which seem to line up with the ones released today. CNET points out that it’s “not clear” if this is a service separate to Google Voice or as part of it, even though the services share the same icons for connected and missed calls.

Google was contacted for comment but would not confirm or deny the feature; “Google is always testing new features and products, but we have nothing specific to announce right now.”

Well, just because they decline to comment, I doubt that should deter your taking advantage of this great opportunity. It is like Christmas in August for many who might otherwise be paying lots for standard calling, or those on cell phone plans that may have unlimited distance calling, but limited minutes during high traffic hours. This will allow calls without problems, and there is no way this will fail.

My only advice, other than jumping on it right away, is to get a good headset with boom microphone. I used my son’s Plantronics 367, which having not paid any attention before, I also realized how nice a headset this is. Heartily recommended, and available from Newegg for about $40 – think of it as money spent on call savings.



It’s only a matter of time before Google will have the entire solar system connected, and you’ll be able to get me, on Mars – If I let you know my number – it’s unlisted.