Send and receive free phone calls on your Mac with Grandcentral

by postbreak

I talk about Grand Central a lot and for good reason. The service, although a closed beta, is nothing shorter than amazing. For those of you who don’t know what Grand Central is let me break it down. Grand Central gives you a phone number in your area code if available which is a forwarding number. You hand out this number to anyone and when they call you back it gets routed to any phone number you choose. You can have specific contacts ring specific phones or even many phones. What makes Grand Central great is it’s archiving system that will email you any voice mail message which you can play back or save. So now lets get into how we can tweak this system to make inbound and outbound phone calls from anywhere in the world.

In order to do this you need two things, a Grand Central account and a Gizmo account. Be warned that the Gizmo download link will automatically select which download you want for your computer and start the download, very annoying. Once you have both accounts go into your Grand Central settings tab. You want to add you Gizmo user name and phone number. That is basically all you need to do with this guide.

With Gizmo running on your Mac we are going to place the call with Grand Central’s website. The only downfall from this is that you need to add the number you want to call into your contact list in order to place the call. If you have an iPhone you can use the GrandDialer application free in the App Store. Add the contact that you are about to call and then click Call. A drop down will show up and you need to click “Place call from Gizmo”  Your Gizmo application will spring to life stating you are getting a phone call from your Grand Central phone number. When you answer it Grand Central will tell you that the call is being placed by a third party and it will begin to ring who you are trying to reach.

What I like about this is that I can be anywhere in the world and place a call from a seemingly local phone number so for those people you are trying to reach with no long distance wont have to pay an extra fee. Another reason to use this is the ability to use a nicer microphone. I have placed calls using my Samson CO1U microphone and usually the person on the other end compliments how clear I am coming in even though standard phone lines have no where near the amount of bandwidth to handle such a high end device. Receiving phone calls is even easier, simply leave Gizmo running in the background and have Grand Central setup to send calls to it. Did I mention this is free?

The reason this works is because Gizmo is a free service when the phone calls are inbound. The way Grand Central works is that your number will call your Gizmo number and then connect the call after you pick up. Essentially you will always be getting an inbound call on Gizmo so all of your calls will be free. Now this is no replacement for a normal phone line and I have no idea if any emergency systems would work such as 911. You cannot use a standard phone with this setup only a microphone and headset/speakers.

This is a great alternative to Skype since it is free and allows for multiple phone numbers to be reached depending on person. I wouldn’t know what to do without Grand Central and this feature just makes it even better. Linux and Windows users aren’t out of luck as Gizmo works on all platforms.