Google Voice is popping up in more and more places these days, and the search giant is finding it increasingly difficult to avoid being labeled as a common carrier. Google on the other hand claims that since it doesn’t charge for the service, they should be exempted from the classification and all the onerous regulations that would apply. Analysts on the other hand are not so sure this justification will hold up, and new features such as Gmail integration and video calling are increasingly blurring the lines.
Google can get away with shenanigans such as blocking calls to rural areas since it is nothing more than a free service at the moment, but if the regulators get involved it could be an entirely different story. It would be interesting to see if Google maintains the same level of commitment if the laws end up turning against them, and they are forced to comply with the same rules as local phone carriers.
It took 14 months, thousands of user protests, and an FCC investigation, but the Google Voice iPhone application has finally been approved. The app enables free phone calls within the United States, along with steeply discounted international calling, a move that likely won’t sit well with AT&T who charges a much higher rate for long distance calling. Google Voice also offers free voicemail transcriptions, the ability to listen to voicemail messages live, and several other indispensable call forwarding and number management tools.
The good news for iPhone users helps underscore Apple’s recent commitment to loosening up the reigns on app store approvals, but its hard to mistake this act of charity as anything less than a move to keep up with the competition. The iPhone platform finds itself increasingly competing for developer time with Android, WebOS, and now even Windows Phone 7.
Has Apple’s recent change of heart convinced you the iPhone is worth looking at? Or did you ditch the Retina display for an OLED long ago?
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Google announced today that in the first 24 hours of availability, Gmail users placed over 1 million calls. That's very impressive considering many accounts still do not have access to the feature, which is being rolled out gradually. The new VoIP service allows US users to make calls to any number in the US or Canada. International rates are low as well. It just goes to show you what can happen if you integrate a new feature into Gmail.
This early success indicates that users are prepared to make real use of VoIP services. When Google added Buzz to Gmail, many decried the pollution of their sacred Gmail interface with all the Buzz information. If you get the notice that the Gmail call feature has been turned on for your account, you might as well try it. Everyone else is.
Gmail has had the capability to do voice and video chat between PCs for some time. But starting today, Google is rolling out direct phone calls integrated into Gmail. In the Chat area on the left side of Gmail, users will now see a 'Call Phone' option. The first time you launch it, Gmail will prompt you to install the Voice plug-in. Then you are able to place free calls to the US and Canada. Google has pledged to keep these calls free through at least the end of 2010. International calls are billed at very low rates; calls to France, for example, cost $0.02 per minute.
The interface is a simple dialpad where users can input a number or contact search. There is also a tab for call history in this window. Users with a Google Voice account will have some interesting options here. The outbound caller ID will display your Google Voice number. Should you choose, calls to that Google Voice number can be forwarded to Gmail.
The new feature is rolling out in waves over the next few days, so if you're not seeing it already, you will be soon. To place calls from Gmail, you will of course need a microphone and speakers/headphones on your system. If you've had the chance to test it, let us know how it works.
The most recent update to the official Android and Blackberry Google Voice apps offers users a noticeable speed increase when making calls. Previously, whenever a user placed a Google Voice call using the app's functionality, there would be a delay of up to 10 seconds (depending on data signal). This is due to the requirement that a Google server be pinged to connect the call over the phone lines. Now the app stores a special number locally to place the call.
These direct numbers are the obfuscated numbers that Google Voice uses internally to route your calls. Each contact has one of these 406 area code numbers. Now that the apps can call this number directly, there is no wait for a server to respond. This also has the advantage of eliminating the need for a data connection to initiate a call.
Android uses can get the update from the Market. Blackberry users should head over to the Google Voice site to download the update. Any Voice users out there already try this?
It was just last spring that we saw Google Voice invites go out to a lucky few. The web-based service has gone on to provide over one million users with a single number to manage their communications. Now Google has opened up the service to all residents of the USA. The good people of less Googley nations will just have to hold tight.
Google Voice provides users with a new Google number that can be connected to multiple phone lines. Calling a Google Voice number will ring all phones connected with an account, but special scheduling rules can control which phones ring when. Google has been slowly rolling out new features to Voice in this last year. There is now a solid mobile web app for iPhone users, who are still prohibited from having a real app. Google has integrated voicemails into Gmail as well.
If you haven't used Google Voice, give it a shot. We are quite taken with the service around here. Even if you don't want to use the number, you can just use call forwarding to use Google's voicemail instead of your carrier's. You can also get free text messaging, and who doesn't want that? Users of Android phones will find some amazing integration with the service as well. Tell us about any Google Voice tips you have in the comments.
Just the other day we got word that Google was putting VoIP technology from Gizmo5 to work by creating a Gmail and desktop interface for making VoIP calls with a Google Voice number. Now TechCrunch is reporting the desktop app is indefinitely delayed and may not be released at all. This does not affect the rumored Gmail integration.
The problems stem from an internal disagreement at Google. Many, including founders Larry and Sergey, do not want the company to create desktop software now that they have the Chrome browser to develop HTML5 web apps. This strategy is evidenced by Google's strategy as of late. They've been concentrating on Chrome, Android, and Chrome OS.
The rumor is that the development team has been asked to instead make an HTML5 web app version of the desktop app. Who knows if it will work out, but we'd like to have options for desktop and web-based VoIP solutions.
We've been wondering what Google would do with VoIP service Gizmo5 since their recent acquisition. Now we're getting the first hints of the plan. Google is apparently testing a new VoIP service that will be built into Gmail. The service is expected to allow calls to be placed from a user's Google Voice number. Could this also mean Google Voice is about to open up?
The Gmail interface will gain a new button that will bring up a phone keypad with access to contacts and a credit balance. Before now, if you wanted to make a call using Google Voice you needed a phone to route the call over a voice network. This will also allow users to initiate calls on their Google Voice connected phones.
In addition to the Gmail integration, a desktop app is also in the works. All this is still not open to the public, and Google has been tightlipped about it so far. We find this pretty exciting, you?