Updated: Gmail gets phone calling functionality

If there’s any truth to the latest story over at CNet News, you might be able to make phone calls directly from Gmail before too long. Although the site doesn’t mention a source, it claims to have “learned” of Google’s plans, and it has a few screenshots with pixelated contacts lists to prove it.

The shots suggest Google will shoehorn the web-to-phone functionality into Gmail’s existing chat widget. That widget lets users send instant messages via Google Talk and AOL Instant Messenger, and it also offers computer-to-computer voice and video calling via a browser plug-in. Letting folks call real phones doesn’t seem like such a stretch, then.

The rumor seems especially plausible considering Google’s acquisition of Gizmo5 last year. Gizmo5, in Google’s own words, “provides Internet-based calling software for mobile phones and computers.”

I’d certainly welcome a solid, easy-to-use alternative to Skype for cheap international calling. Skype does have the benefit of running on smart phones (namely Android devices and the iPhone), so Google would need a similar app for me to make the switch. A web-based solution would probably work just fine with those upcoming Chrome OS slates, though.

Update 11:40AM: Rumor confirmed!

The “Call phone” feature appeared on my Gmail account this morning. Google details international call rates here.

Comments closed
    • cegras
    • 9 years ago

    Are there any disadvantages to internet based telephony? It seems almost too good to be true: free voice calling as long as you are near an internet connection.

      • emorgoch
      • 9 years ago

      Connection performance. Tried last night with my folks calling me from a hotel in Regina to me in Toronto. My mom was all choppy trying to talk to me. She said she had no problems with hearing me though.

    • Prospero424
    • 9 years ago

    It’s interesting to note that when I make a call using this feature, the recipient sees my Google Voice number on their caller ID. So that confirms that it’s integrated with Google Voice. Not that it’s a big surprise or anything…

    • potatochobit
    • 9 years ago

    how do I plug my phone into my computer, bro?

    • sweatshopking
    • 9 years ago

    I don’t see it in any of my gmail accounts. Neither do my buddies…. maybe they didn’t bring it to canada?

      • albundy
      • 9 years ago

      i cant see it either from the US side. i looked on the google voice and gmail side, but couldnt see anything.

        • Shining Arcanine
        • 9 years ago

        You need to have a google voice account before it will work.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 9 years ago

      Is British Columbia not in Canada anymore?

        • ChronoReverse
        • 9 years ago

        I’m in BC and as far as I know, they haven’t rolled it (Google Voice) out here yet. One area code in the neighbouring Alberta (403) apparently works but other than that we get nothing.

        Rather annoying since Gizmo had worked in Canada and it honestly shouldn’t be that hard for Google to roll it out to Canada.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 9 years ago

          Well BC is where Cyril is.

        • sweatshopking
        • 9 years ago

        british columbia is in fact in canada. It’s on the west coast. it’s also a hole. im from there originally.

      • emorgoch
      • 9 years ago

      I had it as of yesterday at 1:00 pm EST, and I’m in Toronto. I heard that they were slowly rolling it out across GMail users. Guess I got lucky that I was in the first batch.

        • axeman
        • 9 years ago

        I’m in BFN in Canada, I got it yesterday.

          • ChronoReverse
          • 9 years ago

          Huh, my primary email account didn’t get it (a message says it’s not available in my country) while my secondary account got it.

          Weird.

    • phileasfogg
    • 9 years ago

    It’s noteworthy that they released this just as the hype around the Skype IPO is building up. I’m sure this announcement will throw a dash of “well deserved) cold water on the greedy investment-banker pigs trying to leech off the Skype IPO.

    • phileasfogg
    • 9 years ago

    Hmmm… international calling price list has very juicy rates for some countries but not for all.
    Japan, Ireland, Italy and China calls are all billed @ $0.02/min
    India is billed @ $0.06/min

    • Prospero424
    • 9 years ago

    Ever since I started using Google Voice and noted the direction they were going with the interface and the capabilities, I’ve seen integration with Gmail and chat as a virtual inevitability.

    I can go into Google Voice (which shares my Gmail contact list) right now and select one of my contacts, and I get “call” and “sms” buttons that work just fine if a phone number is attached to the contact in my Gmail contacts list. That gets you more than half-way there already.

    Then, the only two big pieces missing, currently, are:

    1. Web-to-phone (like Skype)

    2. Integration with the Google Chat and Google Mail pages/interfaces

    Since I can’t imagine that they would refuse to roll web-to-phone functionality into Google Voice if they’re already rolling it into Google Chat, it sounds like they’re just closing that final gap. Nifty stuff.

    It just makes me wonder if they’ll soon be introducing a new portal to these services (“Google Communicator”? Nah…) to get them all on a single page. But I guess you’ll be able to do something similar almost immediately with iGoogle.

    Edit: actually, it looks like Google won’t allow you to add a Google Voice frame to iGoogle, even if it’s done through a third-party gadget. I’d wager it’s because you can’t yet use iGoogle with SSL. Strange that they’d disallow Voice frames when they seem just fine with allowing Gmail frames without encryption, though. Maybe phone integration and the privacy/legal concerns inherent in that make them nervous.

    So I guess the question of a unified portal is still open.

    • [SDG]Mantis
    • 9 years ago

    Skype really isn’t all that hard to use. But competition is almost always good. Google would need something that works at least as well in the iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch as Skype does, not just something that works with Android or Chrome OS. Of course, given that you need to be connected to make a call, it shouldn’t matter if it is a native or web-based app.

      • albundy
      • 9 years ago

      why not? apple singles out many things all the time, so its time to return the favor, not that i dislike apple in any way shape or form. 😉

        • Corrado
        • 9 years ago

        Apple has enough market share that they can afford to make stuff for themselves only, as well as they make a profit on selling things to consumers. Google, because they make money on the eyes and ears seeing the ads in the apps, etc, need as many people using it as possible. Google makes no money on Android per se. They make money on people using it and experiencing the ads/using their products.

      • rxc6
      • 9 years ago

      Google could afford to not make an app for iOS. After all, Android smartphones already surpassed the iPhone in marketshare.

      It is not in their best interest, but they could if they wanted.

        • Corrado
        • 9 years ago

        No, they haven’t. They’ve outsold iphones the last quarter, not exceeded marketshare.

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