In tonight’s “Saturday evening post” you’ll learn why I’m one step closer to ditching our home phone number. For the last several months I’ve been making long distance calls with Gmail calling (ever tried that “Call phone” link in the Gchat sidebar?) It was especially valuable during my recent speaking trip to Sweden as I could use the hotel wireless to call home for free. For these calls, I tethered myself to my laptop using my cell phone earbuds plus this handy adapter to split the 3.5mm earbud plug into separate mic / speaker plugs for my notebook. I’ve also used a USB headset, but the earbuds and adapter roll into a tiny ball I can more easily stuff into a backpack and the sound quality is just as good.
Personally, I love Gmail calling as a phone interface. Being a keyboard shortcuts freak, I simply press “g,p” in Gmail and start typing someone’s name. Their phone numbers appear, I arrow down, press enter, and Gmail dials. Very cool. And of course, thanks to Android, I see the same contacts whether in Gmail or on my cell phone. However, the other people in my house don’t necessarily want to turn on and plug into a computer just to make a phone call.
Enter the OBI110, a VOIP adapter that lets you use your plain old telephone with Gmail calling and optionally, Google Voice for inbound calls. Mine arrived last week and I finally got around to setting it up this afternoon. The steps are simple (though NOT particularly clear in the instruction booklet). After you plug in all the cords and turn it on,
- Sign up for an account at obitalk.com. It’s free.
- Add your OBI110 device to your control panel (click Add Device in the left nav).
- Click Tips, Tricks in the left nav and then click Google Voice Configuration Wizard. Put in your Gmail account info using your full firstname.lastname@example.org and away you go…
The OBI110 lets you plug in your existing land line as well as the Ethernet connection to your router, and you can configure it to use Gmail calling for all calls, or only when you dial “**1” first. This way, you can continue to make local calls on your land line and use Gmail calling only for free long distance.
Note: instead of step 3 above, you can also click on the OBI110 device in the dashboard at obitalk.com and click the Google Voice setup button; however, when I tried it this way, it always made my Google Voice # the primary number, even if I unchecked that box in the setup, so I couldn’t make local calls on my land line.
For advanced configuration, you can login to the OBI110 router using your browser by going to its IP address. When you add the device to your account at obitalk.com, it creates an admin password which you can view on the dashboard. This password replaces the default admin/admin and you must enter username admin and this new password in order to connect to the OBI110 with your browser. If you get in trouble, you can always reset to factory defaults using a paper clip in the tiny hole in the back of the device or by logging in to the OBI110 and selecting System Management | Device Update | Reset.
So far, I’ve only made a few test calls to verify that inbound and outbound calls are routed as expected. If I dial a number directly, it goes through my land line according to caller ID, and if I dial **1 first, it shows up as my Google Voice #. There seems to be a delay of one or two rings before inbound calls on the land line make it through the device to reach my cordless base system.
With the OBI110, you no longer need a computer to use Gmail calling nor a land line to receive calls at your Google Voice # on a corded or cordless telephone. Google has said Gmail calling will remain free at least through 2011, so if you call numbers in the US or Canada, you can make everyone in your house happy with free long distance on your familiar home telephone system.
In case you’re wondering, the event that got this ball rolling was that I got a corporate cell phone (Android, of course), which allowed me to cancel our AT&T family talk plan that we used mainly for free long distance on nights and weekends. We now have much cheaper pre-paid cell phones, free texting through Google Voice numbers, and free long distance at home with Gmail calling. We’ve pretty well drunk the Google Kool-Aid 🙂