We were excited when we got our hands on an unlaunched version of Google Voice for the desktop, which let users make and receive calls via a soft phone on their computer. We hear that software is still on ice, though, and won’t be launched any time soon. But it probably doesn’t matter – today Google Voice is being integrated right into the browser via Gmail. It’s amazingly good – I know because I’ve been testing it for the last few days.
Just download the Google Talk plugin for your browser and you can then make calls to any U.S. or Canadian phone number directly from Gmail. And if you already use Google Voice you can make those calls anywhere else, too, for a very low per minute charge. The feature is fully integrated into Google Voice, which means you can set Google Voice to receive calls in Gmail, and use your Google Voice contact book. Dialing a phone number works just like a normal phone. Just click “Call phone” at the top of your chat list and dial a number or enter a contact’s name.
This is great news if you’ve got bad cell reception in your home or workplace, because you can make and receive calls anywhere you have Wifi reception. Some other very cool features: if you’re on Google Voice and take a call from within Gmail, you switch a call over to your mobile phone and continue it on the go without having to drop the call and reconnect.
Call quality is very, very good – comparable to Skype. See video below of test calls we performed. (Play fullscreen for best viewing, and make sure to check out the screenshots below).
Calls to US and Canada for free at least through the end of the year. Google PM Real Time Communications Craig Walker says they hope to keep these calls free indefinitely, provided the margins on international calls can cover the free US/Canada calls.
2 cents/minute landline rates to dozens of countries, with no connection fee on calls.
Mobile rates are often less expensive than competitors.