Check out Google Talk HERE.

Between cell phones and land-lines there is a new frontier – at least to some of us – whereby you make calls over the Internet for FREE.

During 2012 (apparently it’s been offered in previous years and was going to cost you, but the ‘freebie’ has been extended…) calls made within the USA and Canada are FREE using Google Talk!  International calls are heavily discounted and you can add credits to your Google Talk account in $10 increments.

What Do I Need to Get Started?

1. A high-speed, stable Internet connection is best, but even 56K dial-up supports Google Talk.  Since your calls will be made over the Internet, you don’t want an intermittent connection which will mess up your calls.

2. A Gmail account.  Google Talk uses Gmail as a gateway to make Internet calls.  If you have people in your contact list with their phone numbers added, you can call them by clicking the green telephone receiver next to their name or you can add any number manually on the keypad that pops up in Gmail to make a call.

3. A quality USB or microphone/headset jack enabled headset.  Ideally you want something comfortable that allows for the clearest voice recognition going both ways.  The Savvy Sleuth finds this Plantronics one works well for clear calls: Plantronics .Audio 478 Stereo USB Headset (.Audio 478)

Why Call with Google Talk ?

  • It’s FREE to make long-distance calls within the US (assuming you are in the US) or Canada (if you are in Canada).
  • It’s EASY TO USE Google Talk’s features and set-up your own number where people can call you and you can have the calls forwarded to up to 6 other phones including your mobile, home and work numbers.
  • You can CHOOSE YOUR PHONE NUMBER or have your current number ported to Google Talk.  If you choose your own number you can have a number in your area code, or an area code where your number is a local call for friends and family – even if you’re not in that area code!
  • It has FREE VOICEMAIL which you can access via a 4 digit code you set.

How To Make a Google Talk Phone Call:

  1. Set up a GMAIL account, if you don’t already have one.
  2. Download and install Google Talk on the computer you’ll be using to make your Google Talk calls.   You can also install the Google Talk Video Chat feature.  Video Chat requires:  Windows XP or later, or Mac OS X 10.4 + Linux.
  3. Restart your computer once Google Talk is installed, and sign-into your Gmail account.
  4. In the lower left hand area of the Gmail page there is an area with the header ‘Chat’.  You should see a green telephone icon with ‘Call Phone’ next to it.
  5. Click on ‘Call Phone’.
  6. A virtual keypad will appear in the lower right hand area of your Gmail screen.  Type in the number you wish to call.  NOTE: There is a flag icon to the left of the place where you enter the number and you can change it to make international calls.  You will need to add credits to your Google Talk account for the call to make international calls and can do so by clicking the blue $ within the upper right hand side of the keypad area.  Check international Google Talk rates .
  7. Plug in your headset with microphone (USB type will require drivers or be installed automatically depending upon your OS).
  8. Click blue ‘Call’ button at bottom of keypad.  You will hear ringing (as though you were making a phone call any other way…), but may hear 1 or 2 rings prior to the call recipient’s phone ringing.  The Savvy Sleuth found this to be true when testing both home and cell number calls from Google Talk.
  9. When you are through with your call, click the red telephone icon in the upper left hand corner of the keypad to hang up.  Your call duration will be recorded and displayed.  You can view your call history in your keypad view by clicking on the icon that looks like an analog clock face.
Example of Google Talk Keypad

Google Talk Keypad

Prior to making your calls you can set up your own Google Number.  Check out these tips prior to making your number selection, as once the number is linked to your Gmail account it can’t be changed.

If you don’t set-up a Google Number, a default location near you will be used as the number associated with your account, and may or may not be in your area code.  Caller ID will display that random number that was selected for you and some callers may block your call through Google Talk because of it.  Setting up a Google Number is super easy and takes less than a minute for your to upgrade your account for free to have a number you can share with others and have calls forwarded to up to 6 other phone numbers on your account.

About.com has some Google Talk Advanced Features of note.

 

Google Talk is a great way to stay connected to friends and family for free.  Quick and easy set-up and use, with multi-platform abilities make it an amazing deal for those of us who don’t want to pay for long distance or like the idea of super cheap international rates.  Calls are crystal clear with a solid high-speed internet connection, and you can call from any device with Gmail and Google Talk installed.

If you have an Apple iPad, iTouch or iPhone, get this FREE app: Vtok – to use Google Talk with your device.

 TalkaTone – also available for FREE in the Apple App Store – is another option.