Free Phone Calls From Gmail – Yes It’s Free, But Is It Any Good?

image If you live in North America, you’ll know that “FREE” is one of the most overused, and undefined words – ever. Free, has so many variables attached, that it’s virtually worthless as a descriptor.

If you don’t live in North America, it’s still probable that the same conditions apply where you live, as well.

Despite the fact that “free”, is a very uncertain term, and despite the fact that we’ve all aware of that old expression – “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”, advertisers continue to appeal to our lower instincts by crafting entire campaigns around “FREE”.

So last week, when Google announced “free” phone calls to “actual phones”, not just PC to PC (including long distance), from within Gmail, in both Canada and the US, my natural sense of skepticism kicked in.

Being the old cynic that I am, I immediately thought –

It’s got to be a hassle. Well I couldn’t have been more wrong. Google Voice is the easiest VOIP application I’ve ever used. Even easier to use than my long time favorite VOIP application – Skype.

Voice quality has gotta suck. Wrong again! Voice quality beats my home phone quality – hands down. In fact, if you’re a speakerphone user, I’ll wager that this application will be an improvement.

It isn’t really free. By now, I was a little tired of being wrong but, I was wrong again! Google’s free phone calling feature in Gmail is, well, FREE – at least until the end of 2010.

Setup couldn’t be easier. Highlight “Call Phone”, in your Gmail chat menu.


Then, just download and install the voice and video application from the next screen. The installation app will automatically calibrate your devices. Alternatively, you can choose to self calibrate.


Following installation, you’ll notice that the “Call phone” icon has changed to green – from the previous gray.


Clicking on the Call phone icon will open a phone keypad, as the following screen capture shows.


Choose your Country, (Canada or the US for the moment), input the phone number – either with your mouse, using the onscreen keypad, from your keyboard, or your Gmail contact list. Click on “Call”, and voila! – you’re connected. Incidentally, the application will automatically save your call history.


Incoming calls:

The service provides a US phone number (not yet available in Canada – but it’s on the way), chosen by the user from available numbers in selected area codes.


US or Canadian based Gmail users only – for the time being.

A Gmail account.

Web Cam and Speakers (I found this the easiest setup), or

Microphone and Speakers, or


Download: From within Gmail.


Explore some of the most popular features of Google Voice by watching these videos:


  • Overview
  • Voicemail transcription
  • One number
  • Personalized greetings
  • International calling
  • SMS to email
  • Share voicemails
  • Block callers
  • Screen callers
  • Mobile app
  • Conference calls

I must admit, I’m very enthusiastic about this new service from Google. I find it very convenient, and it’s already saved me some cash in long distance fees.

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Filed under Business Applications, Communication, downloads, Freeware, Gmail, Google, Google Software, Interconnectivity, Software, Video Apps, Video Calling, VOIP, Windows Tips and Tools

13 responses to “Free Phone Calls From Gmail – Yes It’s Free, But Is It Any Good?

  1. Pingback: Anonymous

  2. g

    I tried it out on my win7 machine and I agree:
    It works very well.
    It’s Free.

    I just bought a new microphone for work and will be using Google Voice for my weekly conference calls.


    • Hey G,

      I’ve been using my Cam and speakers but I’ve got a fairly good headset which I think I might just try out.

      It aint McDonalds, but still – I’m Loving It! 🙂

      Good to get your experience with this.


  3. Pingback: Anonymous

  4. TeXaCo

    Hey Bill,

    Yes I have to agree that in the Gmail client it works really well. I has great voice quality and the Free part works out great.

    Although you can’t receive calls if you close gmail out, there is an add on for Chrome but I have not had any luck getting it to actually work. It seems easy enough and even takes phone numbers on webpages and makes them clickable to call through google voice but for some reason it won’t connect the call. It keeps asking for which phone number I want to call from. My gmail number of course but it wont connect. So I end up going back to the keypad in Gmail and making the call.

    Gotta say, I love it


  5. Pingback: Skype – Right for Your Life? Part Two « Bill Mullins' Weblog – Tech Thoughts

  6. slim592

    I bought a set of earbuds with mic at the Dollar Tree (for $1, of course) and the voice quality was still better than my cell phone or home phone. (I think the problem with the land line is interference from my DSL.) I love it, too! Surely something must be wrong with it.

    • Hey Slim,

      The Dollar Tree – what a cool move!

      I looked and looked, and still can’t find anything wrong. Gonna have to reassess my cynical outlook, I guess. :).


  7. Hey Bill—thanks for sharing this step-by-step guide on using the new Google Voice feature. I was a little hesitant about this too since it’s a free service, but I’ve actually heard the sound quality is great. You mentioned it’s easier to use than Skype, do you think you’ll still use Skype?

    • Hey TuneUp,

      Yes, the sound quality is exceptionally good – quite surprising really.

      I still use Skype since I’m very used to it, and I must admit, I like the face to face video connection. Visual contact let’s me know what’s going on behind the voice. 🙂


  8. bill odeth

    ya, except there’s no way to end the call, at least from what i can see. and if you call a voice mail or an automated telephony system, the keypad doesn’t work, leaving you connected until you shut down the browser. pretty wonky if you ask me.