Google (GOOG) announced on Monday on the Official Gmail Blog that its free Gmail voice calling service will be extended through 2013 in the U.S. and Canada. The company has provided free domestic calling within the U.S. and Canada for the last two years, further extending the complimentary service repeatedly just before the new year. Google product manager Mayur Kamat didn’t detail why the company is extending the service in his post on the company’s blog. It’s still unclear why Google is keeping free Gmail voice calls separate from its Google Voice service bit either way, free is free and we’re not complaining.
Vonage on Wednesday unveiled a new mobile app for the iPhone and Android smartphones that affords free calling and messaging along with cheap international calling rates. Vonage Mobile allows users to make free “high-definition” voice over IP calls among each other over Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G data connections, and low-cost calls can also be placed through the app to any landline or cell phone globally. The New Jersey-based Telco says its international calling rates are 70% lower than rates from major carriers and 30% lower than Skype. “Vonage Mobile consolidates the best features of our prior applications, while adding important functionality, better value and improved ease of use,” Vonage CEO Marc Lefar said in a statement. “It combines the best of free high-def voice and messaging along with incredible value for traditional international calls, all while using the existing mobile number and address book for unsurpassed ease of use.” Vonage’s full press release follows below. More →
Google on Tuesday announced that calls placed within the United States and Canada using Google Voice will continue to be free through the end of 2012. “This is our way of helping you connect with friends and family across the country,” Group Product Manager Vincent Paquet wrote on a company blog. Google stated last year that calls made within the U.S. and Canada would be free through 2011, but the company is extending the promotion through 2012 for reasons unknown. Google Voice was born from Google’s acquisition of GrandCentral in 2007, and the later acquisition of Gizmo5 in 2009 is expected to eventually add VoIP capabilities to the service. For the time being, VoIP calling is only supported from within Gmail. More →
AT&T recently launched its new “AT&T Call International” VoIP application that, exactly as its name implies, allows its customers to place international phone calls from their AT&T’s phones using a Wi-Fi connection anywhere in the world. AT&T’s per-minute VoIP rates are cheaper than its international roaming plans and, judging from AT&T’s product page, calls placed to wireline phones appear to be more affordable than those placed to wireless phones. Customers will be billed for calls placed through the app directly on their credit cards at the end of each monthly billing cycle. AT&T Call International is available for free from the Android Market, BlackBerry App World and in Apple’s iOS App Store. More →
HP’s webOS is already tightly integrated with a number of services but now it appears that the OS will soon offer Skype integration, too. According to leaked screenshots, users will soon be able to choose to route their calls directly through Skype from the phonebook application, an option that will no doubt save international callers a big chunk of change. Similarly, users may also be able to place Skype video calls, allowing them to use the front-facing camera on the Pre 3 for video chats. It’s unclear when the integration will be introduced, but this has us more excited than ever for the Pre 3 to finally hit store shelves. More →
Skype confirmed early Thursday morning that some users may experience connection issues signing into the service or making Skype calls. The company says it has identified the problem and has posted instructions for fixing the issue. The good news is it doesn’t look like the outage will be as massive as the one last December, which was later blamed on an overloaded cluster of support servers. If you’re experiencing issues now, hit the jump for some quick fix instructions from Skype. Just don’t blame it on Microsoft, alright?
Update: Skype says Windows users should update their client to the newest version for an immediate and easier fix. A Max OS X update is also on the way. More →
Microsoft on Tuesday announced that it will acquire Skype for $8.5 billion in cash. The news comes just days after reports surfaced that Facebook and Google were both interested in purchasing, or at least creating a joint venture with the online video chat company. However, sources said Facebook was considering spending $3 to $4 billion on Skype, a fraction of Microsoft’s offer. The firm said Skype will be used to support Xbox and Kinect, Windows Phone and other Windows devices. Microsoft also said that it will connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live and other software platforms. “Together we will create the future of real-time communications so people can easily stay connected to family, friends, clients and colleagues anywhere in the world,” Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer said in a statement. Skype, which currently has 170 million connected users, will become a new business entity in Microsoft, and Skype’s current CEO Tony Bates assume the role of president of the Microsoft Skype Division. Hit the jump for the full release. More →
Facebook and Google are in separate talks to enter joint ventures with Skype, Reuters reported on Thursday. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has also reportedly been in clandestine meetings discussing an all-out purchase of the VoIP service. Skype’s IPO, which is expected to occur later this year, could be worth $1 billion, however, deals with Facebook or Google could bring in as much as $3-$4 billion, Reuters said. Skype 5.0 launched in October of this year and added tight Facebook integration, but the social network has yet to include native video calling into its website or mobile applications. Google could benefit from Skype’s mobile technology to build out its Android video-chat feature, too, which just launched late last month. Neither company has offered a comment on the matter. More →
T-Mobile announced Monday that it’s temporarily suspending its “Bobsled by T-Mobile” service, which allows Facebook users to call one another for free. Bobsled was unveiled less than a week ago, and it appears that T-Mobile is making the move in an effort to distinguish its own branding. The carrier’s full statement, posted on Facebook today, said:
We are voluntarily and temporarily suspending the Bobsled service as we work with our partners at Facebook to address their design questions, including working to ensure that the Bobsled experience is clearly differentiated and is not mistaken for a Facebook created property. We apologize to our customers for this temporary distruption in service.
T-Mobile did not clarify when it would relaunch Bobsled. More →
Want to call your Facebook friends for free? Now you can. T-Mobile just took the wraps off of its “Bobsled by T-Mobile” brand, which the company says is its first big step into the IP communications business. The first application under the brand sports the same name — “Bobsled by T-Mobile” — and allows users to place free calls from their PC to Facebook friends. “Bobsled by T-Mobile takes our communications services innovation to a whole new dimension, bringing simple and cost-effective connections to more than half a billion people overnight, allowing people on Facebook to more easily connect and giving voice to social networking,” Brad Duea, senior vice president of T-Mobile USA said. “Our new Bobsled brand will evolve in the coming months to provide even more ways for people to connect, no matter what platform, device or mobile provider they are using,” Duea added, hinting at Mac OS X or possible mobile support in the future. You can download the free application by visiting http://apps.facebook.com/bobsledbytmo. Hit the jump for the full release. More →
Last week, the FCC ruled in favor of AT&T in a complaint it filed against VoIP home-phone service provider magicJack. For those of you that don’t own a television, magicJack advertises — relentlessly, via infomercial — that its VoIP service will provide unlimited calls to the U.S. and Canada for just $19.95 per year. Users are instructed to plug the USB dongle (pictured above) into their computer, connect any touch-tone phone to the dongle’s opposite end, and start dialing. AT&T has, however, taken exception to one way in which the company generates revenue and keeps consumer costs down. The U.S. wireless carrier’s gripe stems from the fact that magicJack, through its subsidiary YMax, has been charging “call termination fees” when its customers make calls to AT&T customers or AT&T owned toll-free numbers. The FCC has rendered a decision, and found that magicJack is not entitled to these fees. “While the ruling applied specifically to Ma Bell, you would think other carriers would follow the ruling and stop paying those same fees to YMax, which as the FCC ruling notes generates basically all of its traffic from magicJack users,” writes Forbes‘ Eric Savitz. The company has yet to publicly comment on the government body’s ruling. In the meantime, hit the jump to check out one of those awesomely bad infomercials we mentioned More →