Calling Phones from Gmail. For Free.

Gmail’s done it again. This time, they’ve set up a new service for anyone residing in the US or Canada to call country code +1 numbers straight from your Gmail account — for free!

This is what it looks like.

Calling international numbers are also very cheap. Calling Hong Kong, for example, comes at a fantastic 2c/min (US) rate. You can check out the full table of rates here. (Not that I’ll be calling HK, as we have an internet phone with a local HK number that works out to even cheaper than that.)

Installing the plug-in is the easiest thing in the world. Just log into your Gmail chat, and it will appear as a ‘Call phone’ button right at the top of your contacts list. Follow the instructions. Once it’s installed, just type in the number you want, and voila!

Note: the only silly thing you have to do to make this feature work is ensure your default language is set to English (US). Mine was set to English (UK) before, and it worked the first time, but I suppose they’ve changed it to only work for one language right now. Which is bizarre, considering how many North Americans don’t necessarily use English as their primary language. What if I lived in Quebec and read and wrote in French, for example?

Apart from this temporary issue, this new feature remains a wonderful addition to my life, as I no longer have to wait until 7 pm at night to get unlimited phone minutes, nor do I have to purchase a calling card with which to dial international numbers and therefore not be charged outrageous fees. This new feature may even cut calling cards entirely out of my life!

Just think — about thirty years ago, when my parents were dating, they had to make appointments to use the phone, as they didn’t have their own. Now we’re spoiled for choice in how we keep in contact: email, Skype, messaging programs, Facebook… and Gmail phone calling. I love my generation.

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