Lately I’ve been using Gmail to take my incoming phone calls over Google Voice (via 3jam). At some point I grew tired of paying a large carrier what I deemed an excessive monthly fee for not very many cellular minutes and I ported my cell line to 3jam. I already had a Google Voice number so I forward my old cell number (via 3jam) to GV. I tend to miss calls, however, when I either forget to leave Skype open or I close my instance of Gmail. Thankfully, there is a solution: Fluid (& Prism) run with the idea of site specific browsers (SSBs) giving web applications a native feel.
The basic concept is that you can create an icon for web applications to run “stand alone”. In my case Gmail (& Google Voice, or Reader) can be launched as “applications” and easily backgrounded. Fluid is easy to use and extensible with scripts, enabling a plethora of possibilities. When using Gmail as a phone it requires both Flash (& Google Talk plugins) in your Internet Plug-Ins directory to be able to make/receive phone calls.
This is not the most ideal solution for VoIP calling. Siemens sells the Gigaset which would allow me to take VoIP/SIP based calls at home over a “normal” handset with out having to have a computer with Gmail open. ATA (analog telephone adapters) allow the use “plain old telephones” to be plugged into your home network, generally the same idea as the Gigaset, though the Gigaset integrates a 1.9GHz wireless transmission system and VoIP router into one package.
The final part of this puzzle to save on monthly usage fees is a prepaid cell phone (depending on your usage). T-Mobile recently released a pleasantly inexpensive Android 2.2 powered handset made by Huawei called the Comet. For about $150 this not terrible Android phone gives PDA functionality and can use Skype/SIP calling over WiFi. The rest of the time minutes are forwarded and used at the standard T-Mobile $0.10/min rate prepaid rate.
Gmail icons for Fluid by EvenWu on Flickr