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Surprise! Google extends free Gmail voice calling yet again

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The holidays are over, but Google is still in the giving spirit. The search engine giant announced on Wednesday that it would extend its free domestic calling service via Gmail in the United States and Canada through 2013.

“Many of you call phones from Gmail to easily connect with friends and family,” Google’s official blog read. “If you’re in the U.S. and Canada, you’ll continue to be able to make free domestic calls through 2013. Plus, in most countries, you can still call the rest of the world from Gmail at insanely low rates.”

While this is good news for avid Google users, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise. At the end of 2011 and 2010, the company announced that it would continue offering free voice calling via the Gmail chat widget, and it looks like that function is here to stay yet again.

Google introduced voice calling through Gmail back in 2008, but said that this feature would only be free for its first year. Since then, it has extended this offer year after year. As Google’s voice calling ability enters its fifth year, the service remains free. This announcement comes just after the company decided to cut some free services earlier this month. 

Referred to as “winter cleaning,” Google unveiled a list of less popular apps and services that will not make it to 2013. This includes Google Calendar features such as the ability to create new reservable times for the Calendar through Appointment Slots, among other capabilities.

While Google continues to keep its domestic calling service free of charge in the United States and Canada, the company has done little to update the feature that provides the base for this service: Google Voice. It did provide some new tweaks, such as the addition contacts integration with Google+ and the launch of an updated Android app. On the whole, however, Google Voice remained untouched in 2012.

To make a phone call in Google’s online chat service, simply click the phone icon in the top left corner of the chat box. This should be located in the middle of the video chat option and icon that allows you to add more friends to an individual chat. Offering free voice calls keeps Google in competition with rival companies such as Facebook, which offers free video phone services within its chat widget. 

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