The first month of 2013 is nearly behind us and I’m still catching up on all of the awesome developments. It’s time to say an overdue thank you for Google Voice.
Google Voice is a downloadable extension for Google’s instant messaging (IM), client, GTalk. 2013 will mark the third-straight year Google is offering this voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) service for free. Unlike many other IM clients, GTalk with Google Voice lets you call any landline or cellphone in North America for absolutely nothing.
I haven’t used the International options for Google Voice so I’ll withhold comment there. For calling from home to clients across Canada and the United States, and vice versa, free is a terrific option!
Google Voice has not been without flaws along the way. Still, for all the speedbumps, it’s hard to argue with free. I remember dialing into a long distance conference call only to disconnect and call back in from my cellphone because the call quality was so horrible.
That being said, I haven’t had to do that in a long time. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised to hear Google was extending the service for free for another year.
There are actually quite a few other voice services on the market. Most of the free offerings only allow you to voice call another computer running the same client though. In time, you end up with more IM clients than active paying customers. Consolidation means simple. I like simple.
One notable champion in the VOIP market is Skype. I’ve been a Skype user for a very long time. Personally, the inability to call landlines or cellular phones without paying became a deal breaker when a viable free option arose. Skype is still a very popular option for many, presumably happy, paying subscribers.
A quick review of the pros and cons of each:
Pro — You can call any other Skype customer over Wi-Fi that is running the Skype desktop or mobile client.
Con — That person may or may not be running the client at the time. Also, if you are calling a landline or cellular, it’s going to cost you Skype credit.
Pro — Call any phone in North America for nothing over a Wi-Fi connection.
Con — The person at the other end won’t know it’s you unless you have an official Google number. It will likely appear to be a call from a U.S. based telemarketer and you will be ignored. Until you gently encourage your friends and colleagues to answer calls from phone numbers they don’t recognize just in case it’s you calling. Sigh.
Google numbers are currently only available in the U.S. and I don’t foresee that changing anytime in the near future.
In at least one feature, their respective mobile clients, Skype versus Google Voice is still a hard call. Even worse, typical Internet free zones, like the airport and coffee shop are learning that a large portion of their Internet bandwidth is being used by VOIP applications and are blocking them unless a fee is paid.
Of course, whichever option you personally chose, call quality is not entirely realized by the service you use. The base determinant for your call quality, mobile or desktop, is your Internet connection.
Since Skype was acquired by MicroSoft in 2011, I look forward to a major war in this market in the coming years. At the moment, Skype has an enormous lead in market share so it’s not that surprising that Google is leaving Voice open to all for now. Whatever the reason, thanks just the same
For now, at least through the end of 2013, I’ll be using Google Voice for outgoing international calls. As long as the call quality is bearable that is.
“Sorry, can you repeat that? zzchTTzz ... Never mind, I’ll call you right back.”
Jon Reid is an IT professional working in Corner Brook. His column appears every other Tuesday in The Western Star.