Afterword

ThimphuTech was the first technology blog in Bhutan. We started writing it in 2009, just as broadband and mobile internet started to take off. (Although internet in Bhutan was launched in 1999, it was either super-slow or super-expensive, and was only used by a selected few).

In the blog, we wrote about technology and food, but also about plenty of other stuff. The blog became popular and influential in Bhutan. A companion bi-weekly column -- Ask Boaz -- was published for many years in the Kuensel, Bhutan's national newspaper. (The complete Kuensel columns are available as an ebook, Blogging with Dragons).

We stopped updating the blog when we left Bhutan in 2014, but the information within the posts can still prove useful, and thus we decided to keep it online.

We thank all our readers.
Tashi Delek,
Boaz & Galit.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Free calls from Bhutan to the U.S. and Canada

You can now use Gmail - Google's free email application - to call regular phones from your computer. And calling numbers in the U.S. and Canada is free until (at least) the end of 2010. That's 4 months of free phone calls to your relatives and friends in New York or elsewhere in North America. Calling other countries is not free, but the rates are excellent (e.g., 2 cents per minute to Australia). However, this will require a credit card.

I tried this new service from Google, and it works well.

You can read all about this new feature in the official Google blog. If you don't have a Gmail account, you can get one here. It's free.

Note (1): This service is supposed to be available only to U.S. customers. However, it appears that the way Google currently checks if you're a U.S. person is by looking at your Gmail language settings. Make sure it is set to "English (US)". I previously set to "English (UK)" so I couldn't make any calls. Once I switched to "English (US)", the magic happened. You can change the language settings by clicking on "Settings" on the top right corner of your Gmail page.

Note (2): If you're using Bhutan Telecom's broadband connection (aka ADSL), the calls are not really free - you're using Internet data. According to my calculations, the new service uses up to about 1MB per minute, which at BT's rates (Nu 399 per 2.5GB) translates into approximately Nu 0.15 per minute - still much cheaper than a phone-to-phone call.