Calling home

I travel frequently and whenever I travel abroad, I always seem to rack up a rather large mobile phone bill because I call home frequently to speak with the family who can be rather chatty when I’m away. As such, I’m constantly working to minimize these costs by signing up for international calling plans and using Skype whenever possible. However, tonight I discovered a new weapon in my arsenal … Google Chat Voice. Google Chat Voice allows you to make completely free phone calls to the US and Canada from within Gmail. I didn’t quite believe it at first. I assumed I would only get my first call free like with Skype, but that does not appear to be the case. I made two calls this evening from my hotel room in Japan to the US and both were definitely free (it actually displays the word “Free” once you enter a US number into the keypad) and the call quality was great. If you haven’t tried this out yet, I highly recommend it.

In addition to now being able to make phone calls through Google Chat, you can also send free SMS messages. The only catch is that you are given an allotment of 50 messages which only get replenished when people reply to your texts. I suppose this is designed to be an abuse prevention mechanism which makes sense. All in all, I’m very excited about this new discovery and am hopeful that I’ll be able to keep my mobile phone bill down in the future.

Update (11/11/11) – As of September, it no longer appears to be free to call the US from international destinations (at least from Ireland). That being said it is still very cheap and convenient.

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