Google voice merges into Gmail

Faith Merino · August 26, 2010 · Short URL:

Make calls via Web browser anywhere in the U.S. and Canada for free

phone booth

Watch out Skype, Google Voice just keeps getting better.

Google announced Wednesday that it is merging Google Voice directly into the browser via Gmail, revolutionizing the email service into a Web-based voice-over-IP system. 

By downloading the Google Talk plugin, users can make calls to the United States or Canada for free, straight from Gmail. Like Skype, users can make phone calls straight from their browsers, wherever they have WiFi connections.  International calls are charged at two-cents per minute, so for 20 cents you could have a 10-minute chat with your Great Aunt Margie in Ireland (if you wanted to).  Users can chat with anyone in their contacts list by clicking on “Call phone” at the top of their chat lists and dialing a number. 

Many of the original Google Voice features are still in place, with some new features thrown in for fun.  This time around, you don’t need a Google Voice number to make calls.  You can also switch calls between Gmail, landlines, or mobile phones.

As Google Voice users are already aware, your number is tied to you, not a specific device, so when someone is trying to reach you, multiple phones will ring—and this now includes Gmail.  Additionally, users who are on Google Voice and take a call from Gmail have the option of switching over to a mobile phone without dropping the call. 

To drive home the new merger of Google Voice and Gmail, Google will be installing cute little red Google Voice phone booths at high-traffic public venues, such as airports and college campuses.  The 1950s-British-style phone booths will have that classic antique look, but will be powered entirely by the internet, with not a landline in sight. 

The purpose of the adorable red phone booths is to show users how the voice quality compares with traditional alternatives, like the landline, so domestic and international calls will be free of charge.  Google has not stated how many of these phone booths will be installed, or exactly where, but they will be cropping up in the coming weeks.

Despite the excitement with which the Google Voice/Gmail-merger and the phone booths have met, some problems have been noted, namely surrounding confusion as to how to use either one.  Some users have complained that it is not clear whether the phone call is considered an extension of Google Chat (which it is), or how contacts are to be entered.  Those who have test-driven the new Google Voice phone booths have noted that they can also be confusing to operate.

Google could not be immediately reached for comment, but it is likely that such hiccups will likely be ironed out in the coming weeks.

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