Saturday, August 28, 2010

Voice Calls in Gmail

This week Google released something that we've been expecting for a while... Google Voice calls from Gmail. Actually, you apparently don't even have to be a Google Voice user to use it, but if you are a GV user, the calls route through your GV account. I waited nearly 48 hours after the announcement before it finally showed up on my account, and when it showed up, I immediately used it to call my wife, who was standing next to our land-line, about 12 feet away. She was not particularly amused, but it did work! :) There seems to be an uncomfortable pause between "dial" and "ringing," but it certainly seems to work as well as the other VoIP service I'm using.

Speaking of sipgate... after I blogged about it here, I ditched their client software to try out other softphones. I used QuteCom for a while (once I finally figured out how to find my SIP credentials on the sipgate Web site) and liked it pretty well, but it seemed a little bit clumsy in certain situations (trying to answer a call, for example; I have to answer the call and then press the "1" button, and I missed calls several times) and it didn't really do that well at using my headset when it wasn't the default device... so I tried a few other free softphones and wound up discovering X-Lite. Not only does X-Lite have an "Auto Answer" button, but it can "restore" from a "minimized to tray" state automatically, so when my Google Voice rings, I just pick up the headset and click "1" and I'm on the call. Pretty snazzy!

It's still a little bit weird originating a call through X-Lite/sipgate/Google Voice, though... I have to open a Google Voice window, place the call, wait for X-Lite to come up, and finally I'm on the call. Placing outgoing calls through Gmail is a lot more straightforward; all I've got to remember is not to close my Gmail while I'm on the call! I'm still hoping for that desktop app... in fact, I've been reading about Python with the general idea of rolling my own VoIP application which will work seamlessly with Google Voice's phone book and be SIP provider-agnostic... but the new Gmail integration has an interesting (and useful) niche.