Starting now, some Gmail users will see a new option within their Gmail inboxes that allows them to place phone calls to landlines or cellphones.
Up until now, Gmail allowed users to chat by video and voice chat it required both parties to use a computer with a microphone and speakers.
"Given that most of us don’t spend all day in front of our computers, we thought, 'wouldn’t it be nice if you could call people directly on their phones?'" wrote Google Software Engineer Robin Schriebman on the company's blog
. "Starting today, you can call any phone right from Gmail."
"Calls to the U.S. and Canada will be free for at least the rest of the year and calls to other countries will be billed at our very low rates," wrote Schriebman. "We worked hard to make these rates
really cheap (see comparison table
) with calls to the U.K., France, Germany, China, Japan — and many more countries — for as little as $0.02 per minute."
The feature is still being rolled out, so some Gmail users may not yet see this feature. To place a call from within Gmail, a user simply needs to click on the “Call phone” link at the top of his or her chat list and dial a number or enter a contact’s name:
In Digital Journal tests, sound quality was decent and the feature worked just as well as any similar service such as Skype. A drop-down list also provides a country code, making it dead simple to place calls to other countries.
Users who have a Google Voice phone number also have the added benefit of having their number display as the outbound caller ID. You can also receive phone calls to this number inside Gmail (the company gives instructions on setting this up here
Google says it has been testing the feature internally and it has proven to be quite useful for situations ranging from making a quick call to a restaurant or if you're in a place with bad reception.
"We’re rolling out this feature to U.S. based Gmail users over the next few days, so you’ll be ready to get started once 'Call Phones' shows up in your chat list," Google says.
More info about making phone calls from within Gmail