Free in-country calls and dirt cheap internationals, video conferencing and text features – Google Voice is stepping in on Skype territory.

After reading through Wired’s review of the new Gmail calling feature, I headed straight to Google Voice to check it out myself. I’m a fan of Skype for sure, but I’ve only used it for video calls on my laptop (that iPhone app has just never worked for me).

Set up was easy – enter an area code to generate a list of available numbers. You can also enter numbers or words to try and find a matching or similar number. Unfortunately, my area code (along with a few others) was unavailable, but I managed to find an area code that worked.

You can use the number you choose to attach to any and all of your phones. Now, this is fairly useless for me, as all I use is my iPhone. But for those gadget geeks with a cell, a landline, maybe a work mobile, this could clearly be beneficial.

But you can still separate work and play – in fact, you can create several different voice messages and match them up to various numbers in your contact list. That way your boss gets “You’ve reached the desk of Joe Reilly,” while buddies get the “Wazzup?!” message (if you live in 1996, that is).

Another bonus: Give this number out to friends and family, and no matter how many times you change landlines, smartphones, whatever, they’ll always have the right number to reach you.

Making a Call

Maybe it’s my constant Skype usage, but I was initially picturing this as actually holding a phone call through my laptop with headphones, etc. Not so – here’s the process.

You log in to Google Voice and click “Call,” enter a number or choose from your Contacts. Google Voice then calls your phone, and when you answer, you are automatically connected to the number you want to call. You can also call your Google number from your phone, then enter the number you want to call.

International Calls

Video conferencing internationally with Skype is free (on your computer and connected to the Internet, of course), but obviously it’s a little different with Google Voice. Just like regular calls, you dial from Gmail but actually hold the call on your regular phone.

Another option is to enter your Google Voice number on your phone, then enter the international number you want to call when prompted. And if you’ve got an Android, you can use the Google Voice app to dial internationally on this plan automatically. (Come on, Apple. Get on this.)

Right now, I’m seeing options to call France, China, India, the UK and Mexico City, each for a rate of $0.02 a minute. Something worth looking into for sure.

Sending a Text

Just like making a call, select “Text” and enter the number and the message within Google Voice. You can change the settings to have text messages appear in your email, as well as in your Google Voice account and on your phone. (Even slicker, you can reply via email and it will be converted to a text automatically.)

You can forward texts to other contacts via email as well.

Call Me!

Feature I am least hyping? The “Call Me” widget you can add to your blog. Readers click and are connected to your phone. The mere thought makes me shudder. I suppose for company websites, this is a great feature to connect customers to a service number. For personal use, no thanks.

Have you used Google Voice? Not interested? Let us know what you think in the comments below!