Google and Sprint are getting cozy these days, having made two big announcements today. The first is a major phone announcement, the Nexus S 4G for Sprint. It’s a “Google Experience” phone, running the stock Android 2.3 Gingerbread experience and includes a WiMax radio for an actual 4G experience in the markets where Sprint has that service live.
The second announcement was the integration of Sprint phones with Google Voice. This is the first time that full Google Voice abilities have been available without porting our number to Google. This is a big deal, mainly because it was never even a possibility before, and it will be interesting to see if Google extends this possibility to other carriers or even to standard telephone service.
No, I’m not talking about Android phones…I’m talking about the new feature in Gmail Chat that allows you to make Domestic U.S. and Canadian phone calls for free with your Google account.
Simply hit the “Call Phone” button in gChat, and a familiar number pad pops up. Dial, hit Call, and Google will connect you, for free. How much easier could this get?
Bonus: if you have a Google Voice account, you can even receive calls via gChat! Follow the instructions on this support page to link the two, and you can have your gMail account alert you whenever anyone calls.
To my knowledge, this is the only way that you can both send and receive phone calls in the U.S. with no connection at all to a phone carrier for free. You can use a service like Skype, but Skype calls to a landline phone have a cost associated with them.
I did a quick test of the service today, and the quality of the calls is very good. Now if Google will make this service Facetime compatible, it could be a serious competitor to Skype on the video call front.
After over a year of being invitation-only, Google has finally opened up Voice for signups. If you haven’t heard of or used Google Voice, it’s an interesting service that has a lot potential. The general idea is: you sign up, and Google gives you a new phone number. This number then becomes a sort of relay, forwarding calls to any number of other phones simultaneously. For instance, if someone calls my Google Voice number, it rings my Work phone and my Cell phone at the same time, and I just pick up whichever is more convenient.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though…Voice also gives you a ton of control over how incoming calls are dealt with. It uses your Google Contacts as one source for logical rules, and you can set up things like “If anyone in my Friends list calls me, send that to my Cell phone and don’t go to Voicemail”. On the other hand, you can easily say something like “If anyone on my “Do Not Call” list calls, don’t ring my phone and send them to Voicemail.” Or even block them completely!
Voice also does voicemail speech-to-text transcription, will txt you when you get a voicemail, and integrates seamlessly with Android phones. It’s an incredible service…if you haven’t tried it, and you hate the phone as much as I do, Google Voice will change the way you deal with the phone.