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Google Brings New Calling Features to Gmail

One of Google’s most important properties these days is Gmail, and thrives largely because of powerful integration with two other Google services: Voice and Docs.

Those who have been paying attention to Gmail over the last few years know that the service now allows for many voice- and video-oriented features, and most notably making calls to other Gmail users or any standard U.S. phone number. Those who have a Google Voice account can even receive calls in Gmail when someone calls them.

The features of this calling have been somewhat limited (you can make simple calls, but Gmail itself has no voicemail, conferencing, etc.), but many key features are being added – bringing Gmail calling much closer to the capabilities of your standard phone. The most recent batch of features adds a hold button and the option to take or make multiple calls. Here’s brief rundown of the features and how they work:

  • The hold button, represented as a pause button on the right side of the call box, can be pushed at any time during a call – giving you the option “to talk to someone in the room or grab something off the stove,” as suggested by Google’s press release.
  • The multiple outbound call option can be activated by simply calling another number. Your current call will be placed on hold, and you can switch back and forth between the two by pushing “pause” and “resume” on the call boxes for the respective calls. The number of outbound calls to physical phones is limited to two.
  • The multiple inbound call option is automatic for Google Voice users. When a second call comes in, if you answer it, your current call will be placed on hold.

These features are available immediately for all North American users.