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Google Enables Free Calls From Gmail


 Google Enables Free Calls From Gmail

It's hardly an illogical next step for the service, but that doesn't make Google's introduction of free calls from Gmail to US and Canada phone numbers any less of a big deal. Call from Gmail, as the feature is dubbed, not only gives US users free calls to residents of their own country and northerly neighbours, but also facilitates cheap VOIP calls internationally, using pre-paid credit purchased from Google. It's at this point that Skype and its ilk need to be concerned.

International landline calls are being charged at $0.02 and up, so if you can keep your conversation under a minute, you really can offer your "two cents" on any given issue. Mobile calls will, unsurprisingly, cost more, but will almost certainly still be cheaper than using your 'real' phone to make the same call.

The significance of Call from Gmail is not, obviously, that Google is offering voice over IP telephony - that's hardly a revolutionary communication medium. Rather, it's the tight integration with Gmail - and by extension Google chat - and Google Voice. Those fortunate enough to have Google Voice accounts will be able to accept incoming calls via Call from Gmail, making it even more frustrating that the UK isn't able to get access.

The free calls to US and Canada landlines are being offered until the end of the year, so if you are a US citizen now is the time to give Call from Gmail a go to see what you think. Hopefully if the American-based pseudo-trial period goes well an international roll-out won't be too far behind.



Go to comments


August 26, 2010, 7:39 pm

With Facetime about to explode all over the place on Wednesday (or very soon after) this is Google's latest attack on Apple.


August 26, 2010, 8:09 pm

It looks like they are taking on Skype more than Apple. I think Skype deserves it too. They refuse to make a Android app for Android phones, unless they're on the 3 network.

They only have themselves to blame with their 3 exclusivity deal that they will lose a whole market of Android enabled smartphones...


August 26, 2010, 9:32 pm

How can I make a call from gmail? I type an email and it turns the text into audio synthesising my voice? Wow technology has come a long way.


August 26, 2010, 10:39 pm

Not quite sure what this has with Facetime exploding over peoples faces on Wednesday but the thought is amusing enough. Skype had this pie for a while now, I hope the competition further stimulates innovation in this area... And not just video calling that's been kicking around for ages before Apple marketed/invented it <grin>


August 27, 2010, 12:44 am

Yes Skype pretty much defines the market, but this just really seems like something Google's getting into because Apple is too. The tit-for-tat started with Android competing with iOS. Then all of a sudden Apple wants to get into the ad revenue business. Now it's 'You make video calling a flagship feature, we do too" timed a week before the market is flooded with Touches with cameras on.


August 27, 2010, 12:59 am

Fingers crossed I'll be getting my new Touch on Wednesday! Facetime, high res display (I'm loth to say retina) and A4 chip.

Greg Shewan

August 27, 2010, 11:32 am

Sad... Apple again. As for the competition part, every phone OS is in competition with each other not just iOS and Android. Anyways, video calling is not offered by this service apparently. I don't see how $0.02 a minute will be profitable with video calling bandwidth.


August 27, 2010, 1:20 pm

I guess I'll be sticking with Skype until Google introduces this feature to the EU with competitive prices. VoipBuster seems to be even better than Skype but I simply cannot figure out how to top up.


August 27, 2010, 1:32 pm

I can't help but feel that the UK Network providers have somehow colluded to block Google Voice from being launched in the UK. What's strange, is that they do allow another visual voicemail service (Hellomail) which I can heartily recommend for Android users. I get all my voicemails as MP3s in my email inbox. It's not quite as integrated as Google Voice though. I can't integrate my three numbers with it.

However, the louder Google's Voice becomes, and the stronger other VOIP offerings become, the weaker the networks become, and the more they are pressured into being dump pipes. I reckon if they do allow this kind of service on mobiles universally, it's going to put a lot of pressure on bandwidth. Questions about data limits, and who's going to pay for the infrastructure are bound to follow.


August 27, 2010, 1:43 pm

@darkspark88: You do know that the reason for the "3 exclusivity" is because 3 are the only UK network to allow Skype over 3G and all other UK networks specifically mention skype as something you're not allowed to use. Sure Skype could make the application wi-fi only, but then you'd get loads of people complaining about that...


August 27, 2010, 3:08 pm

The amazing thing it effectively gives us free phone calls to the states from the UK - very impressed :)


August 27, 2010, 3:12 pm

I guess like with most technology, it's not who does it first, it's who does it that makes it the simplest to use. Like i so often find myself sending someone a message on Facebook instead of emailing them just because it's simple (not that email isn't simple - must be the little faces popping up that makes it seeem friendlier). So I suppose once (not if) Facebook add something like this they could change the face of VOIP even more than this introduction from Google.

Cos it's not Apple copying Google, or Google copying Apple; it's every big tech company looking at the big picture and competing for our dollars/pounds/euros in every field.


August 27, 2010, 3:16 pm

@ravmania: why carry two bottles into the shower? I don't understand people who buy Touches.

I cringe at the thought of people using Facetime, there's a good reason it's not taken off and I hope Apple doesn't change that.


August 27, 2010, 3:33 pm


I don't like using my phone for music, mainly be because of battery life issues and need/want a new MP3 player. Also wouldn't mind messing around with iOS at the same time. Get to know your enemy and what not! While I'm no Apple fan I can still appreciate that they make some nice kit.

Incidentally does anyone know of a decent iTunes replacement? I need something that can monitor folders.


August 27, 2010, 4:12 pm

darkspark88: it's not because 3 have an exclusive deal it's just because skype is painfully slow in releasing an offical app for any format, infact android is the only OS that doesn't has it's own skype client, symbian has one alongside the 3 version, iOS have their own skype client. if there was an exclusive deal then there would be no skype client on symbian.

also how in any way is this competing with apple? I think people need to start to relise that the world does not revolve around apple. (the video and voice VOIP in gmail has been going for years, this is just calling landlines from the browser extending google voice from the phone to your computer)

I think the main reason for google voice not being in the UK has something to do with how our mobile phone system works, cause in the US say if I called you then I would pay my end but you have to pay your end and it comes out of your prepaid for minuets. whereas in the UK the caller pays for everything (which is the best way IMO as I don't want to pay for wrong numbers or sales calls)


August 27, 2010, 4:23 pm

@ Castalan: I don't quite follow. Aren't the free calls only available to people within that particular region? What's more, this feature hasn't even come to the UK yet.


August 27, 2010, 4:43 pm


All I can tell you is when I go into my gmail now I get a chat option on the left hand side "call phone".

When I click on it I get a little phone keyboard type thingy pop in the browser on the right.

I can then phone US landlines for free - and it even has 10 cents of credit, so I tried calling my home phone for free and it all just works :)

Free calling to the US - what's not to like ? :)


August 27, 2010, 6:25 pm

@ Castalan: So all I have to do is install voice and video chat and I can call friends in North America without topping up like on Skype? What about computer to mobile calls? What's the quality like?


August 27, 2010, 7:34 pm

Just change gmail language to US english and it works from UK no problem. How long it will do this for is anyone's guess. Read about this on pcpro and it worked immediately.

Doesn't seem very integrated in terms of being able to call direct from my contact list though which seems poor. Ideally this will come along though.


August 27, 2010, 8:34 pm


Haven't tried to mobile - to landlines seems perfect :)


August 27, 2010, 9:25 pm

Just tried it myself, called my house. The sound is a lot better than Skype.

I can see myself using this a lot seeing as how I can never get on the phone!


August 28, 2010, 4:55 pm

Not in GMail in GoogleApps yet.


August 31, 2010, 3:58 pm

Google are a one trick pony and that trick is nearly played out. Their attempts to diversify into markets with established brands are desperate.

Take Android, it's clunky and geeky. Members of my family with Android phones don't know how to use the features, don't understand what they see, don't know which of the billions of phones to buy, and all wish they'd got an iphone.

Yet my wife, who has no geekiness at all, got herself an iphone because her equally ungeeky friend had one and they are pretty, she set it up by just plugging in to our computer, and is a whizz on it.

Skype works, everyone knows it works, they don't spy on you and sell your info to some nameless corp, and calls are secure. Skype's only problem is the limited investment in bandwidth by our internet providers.

Skype and Apple are not competitors, in fact they compliment eachother. And both have something in common at the very top of their companies, They are vision driven. Google is short-medium term profit driven. Android is an apple spoiler, Google Phone is a Skype spoiler. They bring nothing fresh, nothing new, not even good design, and their only purpose is profit.

In this battle I'm with steve jobs, Skype has the vision to be the driver and the quality.

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