Google makes Gmail calling official

Well that didn’t take long. This morning we told you about a rumor that Google was working on a feature that would allow Gmail users to call residential and mobile phones right from within the web-based email client. Now, five hours later, that feature has become official. As Google explains:

Starting today, you can call any phone right from Gmail.

Calls to the U.S. and Canada will be free for at least the rest of the year and calls to other countries will be billed at our very low rates. We worked hard to make these rates really cheap (see comparison table) with calls to the U.K., France, Germany, China, Japan—and many more countries—for as little as $0.02 per minute.

Dialing a phone number works just like a normal phone. Just click “Call phone” at the top of your chat list and dial a number or enter a contact’s name.

We’ve been testing this feature internally and have found it to be useful in a lot of situations, ranging from making a quick call to a restaurant, to placing a call when you’re in an area with bad reception.

If you have a Google Voice phone number, calls made from Gmail will display this number as the outbound caller ID. And if you decide to, you can receive calls made to this number right inside Gmail (see instructions).

We’re rolling out this feature to U.S. based Gmail users over the next few days, so you’ll be ready to get started once “Call Phones” shows up in your chat list (you will need to install the voice and video plug-in if you haven’t already). If you’re not a U.S. based user—or if you’re using Google Apps for your school or business—then you won’t see it quite yet. We’re working on making this available more broadly—so stay tuned!

Hit the jump for a funky, promotional video explaining just how far phone technology has come.

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