Want to save hundreds or even thousands on business calls yearly? Try Google. Yes, you read that right. Although it’s not top-of-mind for phone calls, the Internet search giant – which already offers a broad menu of free and low cost small business solutions – has quietly introduced free phone service to the U.S. and Canada, plus super-cheap international rates.
It’s available through Gmail, Google’s wildly popular (and free) email service and works similar to Skype and other voice over Internet (VoIP) phone services…only better. “It’s difficult not to like Gmail voice calling,” says James Martin, co-author of Getting Organized in the Google Era, “if only for the free calls and the convenience of making and receiving calls directly from my email inbox.”
Gmail voice chat (as it’s called) beats Skype in several ways. First off, to make free calls with Skype both parties need to be using the Skype software on a PC or other device. Gmail voice lets you direct dial to anyone’s landline or mobile phone in the U.S. or Canada for free (at least for now). And early users of the Gmail service say sound quality is good. (Many business owners have dropped VoIP and Skype because of erratic sound quality.) Call Australia, Argentina, France, Germany, Greece, China, Italy, Japan and more countries for 2 cents a minute (see all country rates at www.google.com/voice/rates).
Here’s how it works:
- Calls are made directly from a Gmail inbox. If you don’t yet have a free Gmail account, go to Google to sign up. To add the voice chat feature (which includes free video chat, too), download and install the free “plug-in” that enables the service to work on your PC, laptop, mobile phone or other device. Once that’s installed, you’re ready to make phone calls from the Gmail page using the microphone, speaker and camera already built into your computer.
- One catch is that you’ll need a Google Voice phone number (free) in order to receive (but not make) phone calls via Gmail. Google Voice is a handy service many small businesses already use that enhances the existing capabilities of your phone, regardless of what carrier you have, for free. It gives you a single number that rings you simultaneously on your office, home, mobile or other phone, plus online voicemail with transcribed messages delivered to your inbox. If you get a Google Voice number, people can call you on that and you can answer on any of your regular phones, or in Gmail.
- For more information or to sign up, go to: www.google.com/chat/voice/
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Filed Under: Saving Money
About the Author: Daniel Kehrer, Founder and Chief Content Officer of BizBest Media, is a senior-level leader in digital media, content development and online marketing with special expertise in startups, SMB, social media and generating traffic, engagement and leads. He holds an MBA from UCLA/Anderson and is a passionate entrepreneur (started 4 businesses), syndicated columnist, blogger, thought leader and author of 7 business and financial books.