I hate talking on the phone yet, surprisingly have no problems with video conferencing within Skype or Google video chat. Then today, Google announced Gmail users can make phone calls within Gmail. To do this the user needs to install the Google video and voice chat plugin. The geek in me immediately had to test how I can make calls from Gmail to a cell phone or regular landline (home or business phone). I called my business partner Bill on his iPhone and wasn’t happy with the call quality. I was hearing an echo and some of his words were a little clipped. It could be because of AT&T service or he might have been holding is phone incorrectly and affecting signal strength. (Bill I know you never read my blog, so I’m wondering how long it would take for you to realize I said this).

To make a phone call within Gmail, click on “Call phone” from within the chat box, it should be right under your name. If you haven’t installed the Google voice and video chat plugin, it will ask you to “Try it now“. After you’ve installed the plugin, you will be taken to a screen to test the microphone and webcam on your computer.

Once the plugin is installed, clicking on “Call phone” will give you a dialer, where you can type in the name of your contact and if their number is in your phone book, you can click on their number to initiate the call. Otherwise, just dial the number on the keypad with your mouse and it will call their phone. It’s great because I can save mobile minutes and make calls on my computer or even send text messages. They will see a random number generated by Google on their caller ID unless you have a Google Voice number. If you do, the person you dialed will see your Google Voice number on their caller ID. Have you installed the plugin into Gmail, if so, let me know your thoughts in the comments. If you have me on Facebook, give me a call to test it out!

To learn more about how to make phone calls within Gmail:
Watch this animation on how Gmail has evolved.

Here’s a NY Times article on How to Make Phone Calls Within Gmail

I had to go into my Google Voice Settings and click on the check box to make sure I can get phone calls in Google chat. The call quality for video and voice chat was significantly better for PC to PC calls. I need to call people who have either a landline or mobile phones on different carriers.