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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Gmail’s Phone Feature: A Logical Addition - PCWorld

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase
Gmail’s Phone Feature: A Logical Addition - PCWorld
Analysis: Google's habit of introducing non-e-mail features into Gmail works out well, this time.
Saturday, August 28, 2010 06:49 AM PDT
I've been using Gmail's new free voice calling feature over the past couple of days. For a while, I thought that the Google Buzz blowup proved it was a bad idea to introduce non-e-mail features into Gmail, period. Now I now that if it's the right feature done the right way, it can make perfect sense.
Quick notes:
The quality-on the calls I've made so far, at least-is sensational, and seemingly so on both ends. I hear the other party just great, he or she hears me, and there's zero lag time. All using the microphone and speakers built into my MacBook, no headset required. It's like having a speakerphone, except I've never encountered a speakerphone that sounds this good.
Making calls from within Gmail works well; receiving them has its complications. For one thing, you need to make sure that Gmail is open, and that it's in a tab you can get to quickly when your browser starts to ring. For another, if you mute your laptop's speakers and aren't in Gmail when a call comes in, there's no way to tell someone's trying to reach you. (I'd love to see Google release a bit of notification software that would get your attention even when you're in another app.)
It would be nice to see more comprehensive integration of Gmail and Google Voice, or at least parity in terms of phone features. For instance, being able to check voice messages from within Gmail would be a plus. And shouldn't you be able to make PC calls from within Google Voice itself? (It has a calling feature, but it does something different: It rings both you and the person you want to talk to on your standard phones.)
I agree that this is a wonderfully, useful feature. I also agree that it would also be useful if there was a separate notification software which let you know when you receive a call without Gmail having to be open. I actually like Skype's service better. I pay $2.99 per month for unlimited U.S. and Canada calling. I pay $30.00 a year for a Skype in phone number, which is a local number which receives calls on my computer wherever in the world I may be. It was very useful for my family in friends when i was living in South Korea. They could reach me from any phone for free by dialing my local, Skype provided number which rang on my MacBook.
Now my Skype number is my home number. I can receive calls as long as a computer is on in my house. I make all and receive of my daytime phone calls from either my MacBook or the Skype application on my iPod Touch. I make all of my overseas calls using Skype. In the past 24 hours I have spoken to friends in South Korea twice, for free. I spoke over two hours.
Skype averages out to less than $6.00 per month for its unlimited U.S. and Canada service with a local phone number.
On the other hand I give my google voice number out to my college students or as a home number in business situations. I have Google Voice set up to automatically forward calls to my Skype number. So I never have to worry about missing calls and I get around the Google Voice and Gmail phone limitation that requires your browsers Gmail tab to always be open.
All of my text messaging is done through Google Voice either on my MacBook or my iPod touch. As long as there is a wifi connection Skype and Google Voice work together like a charm. I use Skype for my overseas texting. It is only a couple of cents per texts and calls range from $02 cents to land lines and $.05 to overseas mobile phones. The best part is that I have all of these features for under $6.00 per month. I pay Skype under $6.00 and combine its features with the call forwarding features of Google Voice. Did I mention that Google Voice provides a free voice mail which transcribes your messages and sends them to your Gmail account. Of course you can listen to a recording of the original message. On the weekend and after 9PM and on weekends I have my Google Voice number set up to forward my call directly to my cell phone. This way during the week I do not use my cell phone minutes. Five people in my family share 700 minutes without any overages. This system works.
This is a wonderful brave new world. Telephony will never be as it used to be. Those of you who are middle age like me remember when "Ma Bell" charged you $0.10 per message unit (every 3 minutes) for local calls. Thank God those days are long over.
John H. Armwood

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