Google has launched a new feature that allows you to make free calls from your PC using Gmail. It’s built into their existing “Google Chat”, which recently added voice and video pc-to-pc calling. Now it also includes a “Call Phone” link which opens a phone keypad window that you can use to make calls (plug-in download required). You can simply dial a number, or choose from suggestions it finds in your address book as you type a number or name. According to the announcement in their Gmail blog post, calls to the U.S. and Canada are “free for at least the rest of the year” and minimal rates to overseas.
There has been a recent surge in price competition among wireless carriers, which is good news for consumers in terms of their cell phone minute plans. However, pricing for mobile web access persists at $25 or $30 per month for “smart phones” and $10 or $15 per month for standard “phone-first” handsets. For standard handsets, you have no other option if you wish to access the internet on your phone, unless you are only an infrequent user (in which case, you can buy your internet bandwidth by the kilobyte from those carriers that offer the option, such as AT&T). But with more and more phones falling into the PDA/smartphone category, an increasing number of buyers are feeling that they have no choice but to tack on the costly unlimited internet package to their plan – and the carriers like it that way.
But you may have a choice after all. (more…)
Many people have been interested in using Google Voice, but didn’t want to have to switch to a new phone number. Google now allows you to configure your account to work with your existing mobile number. So, without having to give out a new phone number, you can easily begin using Google’s voice mail instead of your carrier’s voice mail system. Why use Google’s voice mail? Great features like unlimited online storage of voice messages, custom greetings by contact group or individual, and email alerts including transcriptions (though not perfect). When you add your mobile number to Google Voice, you will have the option to configure it for use with the voice mail. It will give you directions and the codes you will need to program your phone. Don’t worry, it’s always reversible if you change your mind. You make only one sacrifice when not using your carrier’s voice mail system: no voice message icon will appear on your phone notifying you of a new message. If you don’t mind that, you’ll gain a lot of other great features. (more…)