Gmail calls: Free to the US through 2011, Google says

Gmail calls to the US and Canada will remain free until at least the end of 2011. Does that mean Google has had a tough time attracting interest to its VoIP platform?

Google has extended free Gmail calling for US users.

Gmail calls to US and Canadian phones will remain free through 2011, Google announced today, framing the decision as an early holiday gift to users.

"When we launched calling in Gmail back in August, we wanted it to be easy and affordable, so we made calls to the US and Canada free for the rest of 2010," Google Software Engineer Robin Schriebman wrote in a post on the company blog this week. "In the spirit of holiday giving and to help people keep in touch in the new year, we’re extending free calling for all of 2011."

The Gmail calling functionality saw traffic from upwards of a million users in its first day of service, but as IDC analyst Rosalind Craven told Computerworld, the extension of free US calls could mean interest in the platform has tailed off.

Google offers rates on a tiered system: Calls within the US are free, while calls to countries such as the UK are 2 cents a minute. Calling a Bulgarian mobile phone? That will set you back 39 cents a minute. (Full rate list is here.)

In related news, last month the Google Voice app – which had been axed by Apple pending a full investigation – finally hit the iTunes store. Like the Gmail call feature, Google Voice can be used to make cheap international calls and leave voicemails. The app was first rejected by Apple because it apparently "duplicated" features already available on the iPhone.

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