et another way Google is becoming indispensable: It now allows users who install voice and video plug-ins to make phone calls directly from their email inbox. The "Calls from Gmail" service allows for free calls to any landline in the United States and Canada, with international calls priced at "extremely low rates" — a direct competitive assault on companies such as Skype, which offers a similar service. With early adopters logging over a million calls on the first day "Gmail phone" was available, will it fundamentally change the way we stay in touch? (See the service in action)
Say hello to the new "home phone": Increasingly, people are ditching their landlines, says Farhad Manjoo in Slate. In 2009, 23 percent of American adults (up from 5 percent in 2003) lived without one. But that doesn't mean that cell phones — "one of the buggiest and most expensive ways to make calls when you're at home" — will take over. Instead the future lies in calls routed over the internet using seamlessly flexible services like "Calls from Gmail." Eventually, you'll probably be able to tap such innovations through your TV, or even "your toaster."
"The home phone is back!"
Good, but not good enough: Making calls while you're already using Gmail is "convenient," says Mitch Wagner in Computer World. But it has "limitations" compared to the customize-able phone services many are used to. You can't, for instance, "change your ring tone." And the "Calls from Gmail" controls are somewhat confusing. At least for the moment, I'll keep my Skype account, thanks.
"Gmail voice chat works, but it's limited"
Goodbye, phone bills: The main thing Gmail's voice chat could affect, says Rob Pegoraro in the Washington Post, is the "price of a phone call." When Google released Gmail with "unlimited storage" and gave users the ability to "hold onto their old email forever," it "pounded the market price" for an email "all the way down to $0.00." Gmail phone, I predict, will do the same for calls.
"Google continues the assault on the price of a phone call"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
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