The Home Phone Is Back! Google's new Gmail phone service makes calling anywhere from home cheap and crystal clear

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Among the many
prophecies that techies take for granted, none seem more certain
than the death of the home phone. Just look at that sorry thing,
if you even still have one: Your landline remains fixed in a single
spot; it can’t text, take pictures, access the Web, or play games;
and it’s plagued by telemarketers and robocalls. Since most
find it impossible to navigate modern life without a
cell phone – and because it’s expensive and somewhat redundant
to have both a landline and a cell plan – it’s no surprise
that people are ditching their home phones in droves. In 2003, according
to the National Center for Health Statistics
, fewer than 5 percent
of American adults got by with only a cell phone. By 2009, that
number was nearly 23 percent – and the agency found that the
rate at which people are abandoning landlines is increasing.

I suspect,
though, that many people who cancel their landlines experience pangs
of regret. The cell phone, after all, has its own problems. There’s
a good chance it doesn’t work very well in your home or office.
Even when it doesn’t drop calls or take 30 seconds to connect, the
quality of voice calls can range from "guy stuck in a car wash"
to "guy stuck in a car wash with the windows rolled down and
the radio blaring." In these moments, it’s hard not to miss
the trusty old home phone.

That explains
why I haven’t joined the ranks of the landline-less. Instead, I
pay the phone company about $20 a month to get a very basic plan,
and then I use the home phone in conjunction with various Internet
services to make very cheap calls. The service I use most often
is Google Voice, which does several
amazing things
. It gives me a single number that rings all my
phones, it transcribes
my voicemail
, and it lets me respond to text messages in my
e-mail. Best of all, it lets me make calls through my home phone
over Google’s servers, which is cheaper than dialing directly. There’s
no charge to sign up for Google Voice, and it lets me call anyone
in the United States and Canada for free; international
calls are very cheap
. (I also often use Skype on my iPhone,
which, in my house, sounds much better than my iPhone.)

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28, 2010

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