Google is giving its Gmail users a late Christmas present.
The company announced today that Gmail users in the U.S. and Canada will continue to be able to make free domestic phone calls through next year. Google will also continue to offer international calls at “insanely low rates,” the company said.
Introduced in 2010, Gmail’s phone call functionality seemed a bit incongruous at first, but it’s quickly become one of the service’s best, most indispensable features. While Google initially announced that the free phone calls would only be offered for a single year, the company has extended the program at the end of every year since the program’s introduction.
Google’s angle here is clear: By offering Gmail users low-cost phone calls, Google can keep people away from rival services like Skype (and maybe glean a bunch of user information in the process). With that in mind, it’s strange that Google hasn’t announced that it will indefinitely offer the service. But, then again, maybe it likes the yearly fanfare that greets news of the program’s extension.