On Wednesday Google launched a new Gmail feature that lets you place phone calls via Google Voice right from your Gmail inbox. Overall, the new service is a great addition to Gmail, and may even convince some users to give up their Skype accounts in favor of Google Voice. But while Google is off to a great start with voice calling in Gmail, there are a few changes I'd like to see that would really put this service over the top.
The service is currently limited to users in the United States, and all calls to the U.S. and Canada will be free until at least the end of the year. Fees for international calls start at 2 cents per minute. Google Voice users can also receive calls directly in their Gmail inbox using their Google Voice number.
Here are a few suggestions:
Low calling rates are great, but one of Skype's great features is its variety of calling packages that make it possible to make unlimited calls to other countries for a flat rate. You can also get region-specific plans such as the unlimited Europe plan or unlimited world, which lets you call more than 40 countries for just $14.99 per month. Packaged plans would be a killer addition for people who need to call specific countries or regions on a regular basis.
Google already has a Google Voice add-on for Chrome and there are extensions for Firefox as well, but it would be great to see the new Gmail voice service integrated with the add-ons as well. Skype has similar add-ons, and I am sure it is only a matter of time until Google offers the same functionality.
There's a whole world of Gmail users out there who would likely use this service, and Google has hinted that an international rollout is coming. But even if you're a U.S.-based user it would be a great advantage to know you could use Gmail's new calling feature no matter whether you happened to be in London, England or London, Kentucky.
Google's new voice calling service is a great way to bring even more functionality to your Gmail inbox, but just a few more tweaks and voice calling in Gmail could be the ultimate VoIP service.
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