Earlier, it was reported that Google was testing a feature that would let you make and receive phone calls from within Gmail. It turns out, this wasn't just a test.
Google has now officially announced that this is indeed a feature of Gmail. It is being rolled out in the U.S. starting today.
"Gmail voice and video chat makes it easy to stay in touch with friends and family using your computer's microphone and speakers," says Google software engineer Robin Schriebman. "But until now, this required both people to be at their computers, signed into Gmail at the same time. Given that most of us don't spend all day in front of our computers, we thought, 'wouldn't it be nice if you could call people directly on their phones?'"
"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," says Schriebman.
When users with Google Voice numbers call people, that number will display as the caller ID to the other person.
Calls to the U.S. and Canada will be free for at least the rest of the year, Google says. Other calls will be based on these Google Voice rates.
Look for "Call Phones" to appear in the chat section of Gmail. You can also look for Google Phone booths to appear on college campuses and in airports.