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Voice Calls from Gmail overtakes Skype

With some VoIP applications, you can make Internet calls for free. The most popular free VoIP provider is Skype, but Google's Voice Calls from Gmail feature is challenging Skype's supremacy and is our Best Reviewed Free VoIP service. Both have strong points and limitations -- for example, Skype ties for the worst call quality of any phone provider in one major survey. We also found some complaints about Google's call quality, but they do have the decided advantage of being free, at least for some types of calls.

Reviewers say Voice Calls from Gmail beats Skype (Free, Skype-to-Skype) at one very important thing: you can call any landline or mobile phone in the U.S. or Canada for free.  Skype, on the other hand, offers free international phone calls to other Skype users. Experts warn that applications like Voice Calls from Gmail and Skype can't make emergency 911 calls, so you still need a landline or cell phone.

Voice Calls from Gmail in the U.S. and Canada is free for 2013, though Google has made no promises beyond this, and there are no free international call minutes. Voice Calls works with your free Google Voice number to provide some advanced features. Gmail calls are integrated with your Gmail contacts for easy click-to-call functionality, and they enjoy the same perks as all Google Voice calls -- notably, you can use one Google Voice number to ring all of your phones (and now your computer) and receive transcriptions of your voice mails by text or email, though reports say that the transcription often garbles or skips words.

The person on the other end of your call doesn't have to have any special equipment or tech savvy -- just a normal phone -- while Skype calls are only free if the person on the other end has equipped their computer or mobile phone with Skype software, though this does cover the whole world.

Google also offers free video conferencing through its Hangouts service, which is incorporated with the company's social media site Google+. Like Skype, Google Hangout calls are free to other Google users, but you can also make videos calls with multiple people, something that requires a membership upgrade on Skype.

The main drawback to Skype as identified by reviewers is that the sound quality is decent at best and even reported as poor in some reviews. Skype is primarily a computer-to-computer VoIP service. If you want to call landline phones, you'll need to subscribe to Skype's pay service (about 2 cents per minute or $5 per month for unlimited calls in the U.S. and Canada). Reviewers recommend Skype for free international calling to other Skype users, as well as for very inexpensive international calls to landline and cell phones. Unlimited international calls to landlines cost $14 per month.

VoIP Runners Up:

Vonage Est. $12 per month and up

2 picks including: About.com, The New York Times…

Skype Free

1 pick including: Laptop Magazine, Macworld…

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