Google launched computer-to-phone calling from Gmail accounts back in August, assuring users that the service would be free until the end of 2010. But as a surprise holiday gift announced today, Google is extending the free calling through all of 2011.
Calling in Gmail is currently available to US customers, and calls are free to any land or mobile phone in the US and Canada. While this was set to expire at the end of 2010, Google announced on their blog Monday that calls would remain free for all of 2011.
This is a boon to anyone who currently uses the service, and a reminder that it’s there for those who don’t.
Calling phones from Gmail is simple: navigate to the “Chat” window on the sidebar of your Gmail account. Near the top of the chat list is “Call Phone”, which opens a chat-like window with a number pad. Users must specify the country they would like to call, and then enter the phone number and area code. Calling in Gmail also offers a History tab to monitor what numbers users have called recently.
If you have a Google Voice phone number, this number will be displayed on the outbound caller ID for calls made within Gmail. Users with a Google Voice phone number can also receive calls within Gmail.
The extended free calling is a nice end-of-the-year gift from Google. If you have a Gmail account, you won’t have to rack up your phone bill calling loved ones to wish them happy holidays or to ring in the new year.
We’re not sure what the rates will be when they are announced at the end of 2011 (unless Google decides to extend free calling for another year!), but we expect they will be low – rates start at just $0.02 for calls from the US to Germany, the UK, France, China, Japan and many other countries.
The service was announced late August as a US-only offering, and Google originally stated that the free calls would only be available until the end of 2010.