Tech Talk: Gmail’s just grand!

Published in the September 16 2010 issue of The NAIT Nugget. Tech Talk

Gmail’s just grand!

Issues Editor

“Starting today, you can call any phone right from Gmail.”

That was announced by Google’s Gmail team last month and it really just proves how much more awesome having a Gmail account is compared to having any other e-mail account — I’m looking at you hotmail and yahoo users.

Switch over, already.

Not only do Gmail users now have the ability to call someone at the comfort of their computer screen, they can do it for free – anywhere in Canada and the United States.

Does this make you want to switch to Gmail yet?

I swear, they aren’t paying me to make them sound good, this is just how it is.

I’ve made many calls using Gmail’s built in “Call phone” button since the feature showed up on the sidebar of inboxes in late August and it’s been a nearly perfect experience.

Quick calls placed with ease. Longer calls made with just as much ease.

If your current phone plan doesn’t give you very many outgoing calls, this feature can really come to the rescue. Also if your job entails you having to call out a lot – sometimes to long distance numbers (hello journalist interviewing people) – then this seems to be the perfect alternative to using your actual phone.

But there have been some bumps.

One call I made to a Toronto cellphone was extremely poor audio quality, with voices on both ends cutting in and out. I lost the connection after several minutes.

I thought this might have been a Gmail fail at first, but upon calling a couple more long distance numbers – one to a different Toronto phone and another down to the United States and both of which were crystal clear calls – I’ve come to the conclusion that it was just that first person’s cellphone or cellular signal strength that messed up the call.

There’s also been some area code confusion.

On some calls I’ve made to local numbers, the caller ID shows up as your regular, local 780 area code, however for other calls it’s shown up as a California area code.

I’ve been assured by various other Gmail calling users that despite the California area code, those picking up the phone shouldn’t be charged long distance, but I guess we really won’t know until they get their bills at the end of the month.

However, aside from those minor hiccups, it’s safe for me to give Gmail’s free calling to any Canadian and American phone number (and very cheap calling internationally) a Linda’s Tech Talk thumbs up and seal of approval.

One more thing should be mentioned though, is the free calling across North America only lasts until the end of 2010. After that the service will likely begin charging something similar to Skype fees. Still, that gives users nearly four months of free calling goodness.

Please do yourself a favour and ditch your current free, web-based e-mail service to sign up for Gmail. You just can’t go wrong with it.

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