Making a Phone Call in Gmail

The recently rumored voice calling option is already live on all of my Gmail accounts, not sure if everyone else is seeing it, or if users with existing Google Voice accounts got it added automatically. At any rate, voice calling works fairly well. Though in my tests people on the other end complained of frequent static even though I could hear them just fine.

All my out going calls showed up as coming from my Google Voice number, so I’m making the assumption that you’ll need to have a Google Voice account for this to work.

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Google Adding VoIP to Gmail? [Updated]

After Google bought GrandCentral everyone expected them to release a desktop VoIP application, didn’t happen. Then Google bought Gizmo5, which was basically a VoIP desktop application, now everyone thinks it’s a sure fire thing. Again, nothing. And now there’s a rumor that Google is adding VoIP to Gmail. Please, oh, please be true.

Sure, you already have a Google Voice account and can just login to Google Voice to make a phone call or even install a browser plugin/extension to add the ability to turn any phone number into a callable hotlink. But think how convenient it would be to just login to Gmail every morning, like you already do, and see a popup with missed calls, voicemails, etc. and have the ability to return those calls from within that browser window and, best part, use your internet connection to make the call.

This would seem to be a no-brainer move for Google, but then again, I thought adding Gizmo5 functionality to their GoogleTalk client was a no-brainer move as well. The rumor claims that you’ll be able to call the US and Canada for free, with the option to purchase international call time for “insanely low rates”. Seems plausible.

Where’d this rumor start you ask? CNet’s Tom Krazit posted yesterday saying they received the tip along with a couple screenshots (see above). Google’s official comment on this rumor?

Google is always testing new features and products, but we have nothing specific to announce right now.

Thanks, that’s really helpful. Stay tuned for updates, hopefully we’ll see this confirmed in the coming weeks.

Note: For what it’s worth, the 415 area code is the San Franciso area, just down the street from Mountain View, CA and the Googleplex.

Update: That didn’t take long, Engadget says Google has made it official.

And it looks like it’s already available on my account.

60 Days Without Voice Service

Its officially been sixty days since I last made a phone call on my iPhone that wasn’t over VoIP and life is good. Not only do I have $200+ extra dollars in my bank account but I haven’t had a dropped call either. I’d say all things considered, my iPhone 3G is aging rather well.

Since my last update, I’ve used 803 minutes of talk time and 649 text messages. 90% of my calls were incoming, so I wasn’t really bothered by the indirect method required for placing a call. The only real change I’ve made to my setup is I’ve switched over the to G.729 codec for calls (both over WiFi and 3G) with good results, though it does require an in-app purchase from Acrobits Softphone but it seems to be worth it so far.

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30 Days Without Voice Service

AT&TYesterday marked day number thirty since I posted my walk-through on how to use your iPad 3G ‘s Micro SIM in an iPhone for data only service, and more importantly its been thirty days since I last used AT&T’s voice service to make a call. While I’ve been using only VoIP to make calls and send texts, I did leave my service active until June 1st just incase things didn’t work very well. But as of the first, I am no longer paying for AT&T voice service.

As you might have concluded from the canceling of my service I’m happy to report, that at least in my neck of the woods, using data only with Google Voice, GV Mobile, IPKall, Backgrounder, and Acrobits Softphone has been a smashing success. While I admit that it’s not as straight forward to place calls, it’s still easy to receive them. Which fits quite nicely with my phone usage.

Overall call quality was surprisingly good, naturally it worked better over WiFI, but it was more than passible over 3G. Over the course of those 30 days I only used 291 minutes of talk time, but I sent over 1,000 texts and used over 16GBs of data streaming content. I also installed MyWi to use my iPhone as a hotspot so my iPad could still browse the net from anywhere I had 3G coverage.

How my setup works is simple(ish). IPKall provides a SIP number for my Google Voice account to call, which rings to Acrobits Softphone, so if I use GV Mobile to dial a number it then rings my iPhone via that IPKall SIP number. Along those same lines, anytime someone calls my Google Voice number the call rings through to my iPhone using Acrobits Softphone.  You can find instructions on how to setup SIP calling in this post.

Texting is handle through as I have Google Voice forward my texts to my email. For a more real time texting experience I used Boxcar configured with my Gmail account to push notifications of text messages and new voicemails. I can also use GV Mobile or Google Voice’s own website to send texts from my phone.

I did try all of this without jailbreaking my iPhone, and while it works, I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s a bit more complicated to do things like make calls or even answer them (opening Softphone is rather slow). Plus, jailbreaking was necessary in my case since I wanted to run Softphone in the background and completely remove Apple’s from the phone so it wouldn’t continue running and using memory (be advised, this removes your ability to call E911 in an emergency).

I will admit this option isn’t quite as appealing since AT&T decided to change their iPad data plans, but for those lucky enough to still have unlimited data it might be worth a try. I’ll likely post another update in 30 days or so, as I refine the process.

Free SIP Calling with Google Voice (sans Gizmo5)

Let me start by saying this tutorial does not use Gizmo5, since they no longer are accepting signups (gee, thanks Google) I was looking for a way to make this work without using their service. When you’re done, this will allow you to make  calls via your computer, iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch (2nd gen and newer) to any number using your Google Voice number, all for free.

For starters you’ll need a Google Voice number, if you don’t have one, post your email address in the comments and we’ll do our best to hook you up (I have 5 invites currently available).

This tutorial is rather long and some might find it overly complicated, so consider yourself warned. What I’ve outlined here is the free way of doing things, but if you purchase iPhone software like Acrobits Softphone [$7.99] you’ll get a much better user experience.
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