For a while, I have been using Skype to make phone calls through my computer’s internet connection. By using a headset with a microphone, it makes it easy to call any phone number and it leaves my hands free for the keyboard and mouse (great for remote access repairs and training). Now Skype has some competition.
Until now, I have been paying $2.99 per month for unlimited outbound calls. Now, Google is offering this service for free (www.gmail.com/call).
To use this service, you need a high speed internet connection, and Windows XP, Vista or 7. It’s also a big help to have a headset and microphone, such as the one below. Amazon has a lot of different headsets available but this is one of the least expensive ones.
First you need to make sure you are signed in to your Gmail account, then when you get to the site, click on the link that says “Install voice and video chat”:
Download the file and run it to install. The installation takes just a few seconds, then you will see the notification that you need to restart your browser in order to start using the calling feature:
When your web browser starts up again, log in to your Gmail account and look at the column on the left side. You will see a link that says “Call phone”:
When you click that, a window will appear asking you to agree to some terms:
Once you have accepted that, you will see a little window that looks resembles the touch tone buttons on a phone. Enter the phone number want to dial, and click “Call”. Or, you can start typing in a name from your Gmail Contacts list – if that Contact has a phone number as part of the record, you will be dialing their number. It’s that easy!
If you are going to use Gmail for calling on any regular basis, it makes sense to update your Contacts list with information for anyone you may want to call. I already have that done, since I use the G1 cell phone – it is always synchronized with my Gmail contacts.
When I tried this by calling my own cell phone, the number showed up as 760-705-8888 from Escondido, California. I don’t know if it will display that same number on every call though.
If you try out the Google Calling feature, let us know how it goes by adding a comment below.