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gmail phone serviceIt’s been long rumoured, but it’s finally happening: Google is getting into the VOIP game. In typical Google fashion, however, you’ll find the service in your browser.

If you have a Gmail account you may already have access to the service. If so, all you need to do is install a single plugin (for Windows, Mac or Linux) and you’re ready to make free phones calls the US and Canada, plus cheap calls to other countries.

It’s all powered by Google Voice, the amazing phone service from Google that combines all of your phone numbers into one.

Find The Service

Fire up your Gmail account to get started. Enable chat, if you don’t usually keep it on. You’ll find chat in the left-hand bar, below your various labels. Once you’ve enabled chat, you should see a button like this:

gmail phone service

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Go ahead and click that to get started. You may be told to download the voice and video chat plugin for Gmail. Do so; it’s easy to do on Linux, Mac and Windows.

gmail phone calls

Once you’ve got your plugin installed, you’re ready to get started with the Gmail phone service, although you may need to restart your browser first.

Dial & Smile

gmail phone service

Now all you need to do is dial a number to call it! If you’ve used Gmail’s voice chat function before everything should be familar to you. If not, it’s easy to get used to.

Are you already an avid user of Google Voice, or even just Google’s contact management system? You’ll be happy to note that your contacts are implemented in this service. Start typing someone’s name or number and they’ll quickly pop up, the same way your contacts do when you’re composing an email.

Naturally, you might have some troubles with call quality. Your computer might not have a microphone, for example, which would impact the quality of calls profoundly. Check out my guide on increasing your VOIP call quality 5 Simple Ways To Fix Low Audio Quality on Skype 5 Simple Ways To Fix Low Audio Quality on Skype Read More for more information.

MakeUseOf testers also experienced a few dropped calls while attempting to use the service internationally. Still, it’s worth a shot!

Don’t Have It Yet?

You might not have access to the Gmail phone service yet, as Google is releasing it in waves (though most of my friends seem to have it.) You’ll have it soon enough, so don’t panic!  It also isn’t quite integrated for Google Apps on Your Domain clients, though Google says it will be shortly.

If you live outside North America you can use this service; you need only to set your default language to “US English” in Gmail’s settings. You’ll have to pay to call people in your country however; only calls to North America are free.

Conclusion

It certainly is interesting to see Google Voice enter the VoIP market after years of speculation. Free calls anywhere in North America is even cheaper than my $30 per year Skype account, which I didn’t think anybody could ever beat. Naturally there are rumors that Google will start charging for the service within a few years, but I’m sure they’ll be competitive to Skype’s pricing.

I hope, however, that the service is never remotely similar to The Onion’s recent parody:

I doubt it will come to that, but it brings to mind a serious question: do you want Google involved in your phone life? Moreover, are you disappointed the service only offers free calls to the US and Canada, meaning users from other countries may have to pay to make local calls? Can you see yourself using this service, or will you stick with Skype or other alternatives? Let us know in the comments below!

  1. Monika
    October 6, 2016 at 1:15 am

    Logged on but coukdnt find "Enable Chat" in left hand column. Has this been scrapped by google? Thanks

  2. Anand
    October 14, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    Waiting for gmail to roll out free phone calls india

  3. Ben
    September 9, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    do we know if/when it's going to hit the uk i hope its soon 90% of my stuff runs past google in some way this could take that last 10% (o is that a good thing) anyway the uk is it and when if anyone knows

  4. Black Friday Deals
    September 9, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    This one is really. i was able to save a lot of money. Now i can call my girlfriend in the US as long as i want.

  5. MADinMelbourne
    September 9, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Google. It's taking over... how did we ever live without it?

  6. Munkypint
    September 9, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Thanks for the info about language enabling the phone to work.

    This will enable me to make free calls to my US & Canadian friends from Europe. Will probably continue using skype for others in the meantime, but interested to see how it evolves. Does that include US and Canadian mobile phones?

  7. Munkypint
    September 9, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Thanks for the info about language enabling the phone to work.

    This will enable me to make free calls to my US & Canadian friends from Europe. Will probably continue using skype for others in the meantime, but interested to see how it evolves. Does that include US and Canadian mobile phones?

    • jhpot
      September 9, 2010 at 2:10 pm

      It should work, Munkypint, though Mark was having trouble. Think you could let us know if you're successful or not?

  8. Nat Jay
    September 9, 2010 at 5:17 am

    In the feature-rich GMail/Google space VoIP calls were something that was missing for a while. It remains to be seen whether this can be a suitable alternative to other players in the market. Skype, for one, certainly has an iron hold on this market.

  9. dman977
    September 8, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    I have known about this for weeks.

    • jhpot
      September 8, 2010 at 10:15 pm

      Congratulations!

  10. Mark O'Neill
    September 8, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Weirdly enough, I can phone a local German number and it works fine. But if I phone an overseas US number, the call drops as soon as the other side picks up. Strange. I guess this feature has a long way to go before it can seriously compete with Skype.

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