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Place Calls using Google Voice - in Gmail!

Google Voice lets you forward calls to multiple numbers that ring at once, listen in to voicemail as it is being recorded, and bounce strangers into a confirmation stage, all for free. But it could not handle placing calls - until now. Google is rolling out computer-based VoIP calling.

This update offers free VoIP calls within the United States and Canada, although the feature will initially be available only to U.S. Google users. Calls placed to other countries are charged at reasonably low international rates.

Before this update, you would use Google Voice more as a hub for communication with a Google Voice phone number as the entry point. The service lets you associate phone numbers with an account, and choose behavior based on Caller ID, time of day, and other factors for what happens when someone calls the Google Voice number. It also offers free U.S. text messaging, and voicemail - along with hilariously weird voicemail transcription. (A message from my wife the other day read, "We've had a knife... Mark emergency in Indiana.")

You could place calls that would ring on one of your associated numbers, but you still had to have a phone nearby to make that work. (See "Google Voice Opens to All Americans," 22 June 2010.)

But because Google seemingly forgets which product is which, the site you use to make Google Voice calls is... Gmail. Yes, that's right. The webmail app that brought you Google Buzz and Google Chat (audio, video, and text) now brings you phone calls. Why not within, say, Google Voice? It's hard to understand that decision. (Sure, Google Chat is found within Gmail, and activating "real" phone calls there makes sense, but not as the first and only method to use it.)

You need to install Google's voice and video plug-in to use Google Voice in Gmail. Log in to your Gmail account, click Settings, and then the Chat tab, and follow the instructions there. With that set up, you will see a Call Phones item in Google Chat once Google activates the service for your account.

Google's new offering competes directly with Skype, which charges fees to have an inbound phone number (or more than one) associated with your Skype account, and has a fixed-rate U.S./Canada calling plans. Skype does offer one notable advantage so far: it's available for iOS devices, and Google Voice still remains missing there.


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Comments about Place Calls using Google Voice - in Gmail!
(Comments are closed.)

hugh nazor  2010-08-30 14:23
There have been apps for outgoing calls via Google Voice for some time. One is web address and the other is Voice Central Black Swan from the app store. Both work quite well.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-08-30 14:59
Black Swan requires jailbreaking an iPhone. There's also Phone Amego from Sustainable Softworks, which can integrate from a Mac OS X desktop with Google Voice.
hugh nazor  2010-08-30 17:04
Please see:

Jailbreak is NOT required. I have used it on a 3G and a 4, both of which are standard.
David Magnuson  2010-08-30 16:35
When I attempted to try this out, I was prompted to download the voice plug-in. However, when I tried to install this, a dialog warned that I was attempting to replace a newer component with an older one.

Does anyone have an explanation?
Dennis B. Swaney  2010-08-30 16:57
Unfortunately, Google also failed to post full system requirements. The plug-in required to be downloaded to your Mac requires an Intel Chip Based Mac. So Mac OS 10.4 & 10.5 users who are using G5 PPC Macs are out of luck.

Sadly, this lack of posting full system requirements seems to be spreading.
Eleanor Batchelder  2010-08-31 06:03
I have a Skype account, with $10 on deposit, but given that, I am never charged for calls within US and Canada. The yearly charge is $20 or $30, I forget, but no per-call charges.
Devesh   2010-08-31 06:40
"This update offers free VoIP calls within the United States and Canada, although the feature will initially be available only to U.S. Google users."

I think it more accurate to say "free VoIP calls *to* the US and Canada." I am in Germany and have enjoyed free calls of excellent quality to Canada from here. Perhaps the initial rollout was "only in the US" but I made my calls the day of the announcement, so I suspect that International gMail users can call if the feature shows up in their account sidebar.