Google’s Calling And Texting From Gmail Is Ridiculously Awesome

Yesterday, Google (GOOG) began rolling out the ability to text and make calls from within Gmail.Google has been working on VOIP with Google Voice for a while now, but this puts calling features right in the face of millions of users, putting Google in direct competition with soon-to-be-public Skype.

We’ve tested the feature and it’s got us excited.

Making free calls within the U.S. and Canada and sending free texts from within a browser tab that we have open 24/7 anyway is really handy.

Normal people we know who have never heard of Google Voice are suddenly having this thrust in their faces, and they think it’s amazing.

Here’s how it works:

Here’s your standard Gmail home screen. In the chat area in the left hand navigation bar, there is now a button that says “Call phone.” (The new feature is being rolled out gradually, so if you don’t see this yet, check back soon.)

Here's your standard Gmail home screen. In the chat area in the left hand navigation bar, there is now a button that says "Call phone." (The new feature is being rolled out gradually, so if you don't see this yet, check back soon.)

The first time you press this, you have to install some new software, then restart your browser.

The first time you press this, you have to install some new software, then restart your browser.

Now click “Call phone” and instantly start talking to people.

Now click "Call phone" and instantly start talking to people.

Clicking that link pops this up in the bottom right corner of your browser window.

Clicking that link pops this up in the bottom right corner of your browser window.

You can call right from there, or pop the dialer out as a separate window. Dial a number, and press ‘Call’.

You can call right from there, or pop the dialer out as a separate window. Dial a number, and press 'Call'.

And we’re live! In our (so far very limited) experience, the call quality is great.

And we're live! In our (so far very limited) experience, the call quality is great.

On Planet Google, the term for dialing a phone number and speaking to someone is ‘voice chat’.

On Planet Google, the term for dialing a phone number and speaking to someone is 'voice chat'.

Who you gonna call? Nobody, apparently. You ‘voice chat’ them.

Google keeps track of your call history, and syncs with your Google Voice calls made elsewhere. (Even if you haven’t used Google Voice for almost a year.)

Google keeps track of your call history, and syncs with your Google Voice calls made elsewhere. (Even if you haven't used Google Voice for almost a year.)

You don’t have to enter numbers manually. The drop down menu for each of your contacts includes an option to send that person an SMS message

You don't have to enter numbers manually. The drop down menu for each of your contacts includes an option to send that person an SMS message

If Google doesn’t already know your friend’s number, you have to tell it.

If Google doesn't already know your friend's number, you have to tell it.

Once you’ve used this feature for a contact once, you won’t even have to worry about the drop down menu. A text button is right there.

Once you've used this feature for a contact once, you won't even have to worry about the drop down menu. A text button is right there.

Sending SMS messages is free, though you have a limit.

Sending SMS messages is free, though you have a limit.

This guy is online, so this is completely wasteful and unnecessary if my buddy is paying for texts.

A text in response pops right up in my browser! I can also click the phone icon to call this contact.

A text in response pops right up in my browser! I can also click the phone icon to call this contact.

Calls outside the U.S. and Canada cost money. Google has spotted you $0.10 for nothing. Here’s how they display your balance.

Calls outside the U.S. and Canada cost money. Google has spotted you $0.10 for nothing. Here's how they display your balance.

That’s the one thing they did very wrong, because it’s confusing, and hides what a great service Google is offering.

That's the one thing they did very wrong, because it's confusing, and hides what a great service Google is offering.

That’s it! Easily the coolest new Gmail feature ever.

That's it! Easily the coolest new Gmail feature ever.

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