Reviews say Google's new free VoIP service, Voice Calls from Gmail, beats Skype (Free between Skype customers) at one very important thing: You can call any landline or mobile phone in the U.S. or Canada for free. To receive incoming calls, you'll need a Google Voice number, also free. The person on the other end 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. However, reviews say Skype is still better for overseas calling: Gmail charges extra for all international calls, whereas Skype allows you to talk for free anywhere in the world.
Gmail does do a couple of other things Skype can't do. It allows you to easily click-and-call your Gmail contacts from within Gmail, and you can get a free Google Voice phone number that will ring on all of your phones (including your Gmail) and consolidate all of your voice mail, too. Google will also transcribe your voice mails for free and then email or text them to you, but testers say the voice mail transcription often garbles the messages. Like Skype, you cannot call 911, plus you cannot place a VoIP call from Gmail on a mobile phone (only on your computer, for now). Jared Newman of PCMag.com reports that Gmail Calling remains free, at least until the end of 2012. As of 2011, Voice Calls from Gmail is also available in the U.K. in addition to the U.S.
CNET compares Voice Calls from Gmail directly to Skype, and testers declare that Gmail calling is better in most ways, and the low international calling rates with this VoIP service draw praise from other reviewers. The New York Times, PCMag.com and Laptop Magazine also test Voice Calls from Gmail, with varying results.
Voice Calls from Gmail beats Skype in this head-to-head comparison. It wins in all categories -- features, apps and interface, device compatibility and cost -- although testers say Skype is still the better international option.
Review: Prizefight: Google Voice vs. Skype, Editors of CNET, Sept. 14, 2010
2. The New York Times
This blog post does a great job explaining what you can and cannot do with Google's Voice Calls from Gmail feature. You can't call 911; you can't call free outside of the U.S. or Canada, and you can't call from a mobile phone -- but you can start a call on your computer and then transfer it to your mobile phone.
Review: Six Things Google's Free Phone Service Can't Do (and One It Does Very Well), Paul Boutin, Aug. 27, 2010
3. The New York Times
Voice Calls from Gmail are clear -- even on regular laptop speakers and microphones -- and easy to use, David Pogue says. He says it will be particularly exciting if this feature is ever offered on smartphones.
Review: Google Shakes It Up Again With Free Phone Calls, David Pogue, Aug. 26, 2010
When Mark Hachman tests Voice Calls from Gmail, one call refuses to connect and another has poor sound quality. He says the feature "remains a curiosity" and that it can't replace a regular phone.
Review: Hands On: Google Voice Calls via Gmail, Mark Hachman, Aug. 25, 2010
5. Laptop Magazine
Eric Chiu explains how Gmail calling works and briefly tests it. Gmail's call quality is "consistently decent" and better than on an HTC Droid Incredible phone, Chiu says.
Review: Hands-On With Gmail VoIP: Gmail Adds The Kitchen Sink, Eric Chiu, Aug. 26, 2010
About.com guide Nadeem Unuth highlights Gmail Voice Calling's ability to make free PC-to-PC calls and cheap calls to both mobile and landline phones. Hovever, the service's full capabilities are available only to those in the U.S., and users need Gmail and Google Voice. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Review: Gmail Calling Review - Google International Calling, Nadeem Unuth
This article highlights that Gmail's voice calling service is trimming its calling rates to more than 150 countries, and is now available in 38 languages for those who use Gmail outside the U.S. Whitney states that Gmail Voice calling is a viable alternative to Skype.
Review: Gmail Voice Calling Offering Lower International Rates, Lance Whitney, Aug. 3, 2011