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Google Voice phone booths Dr. Who might love

Vintage-style booths to promote Google Voice service through Gmail come in the style of those traditional red U.K. phone boxes. We hope to get some near us.

Google Voice phone booth
Search Engine Land

Watching "A Single Man," which is set in the '60s, over the weekend, I had a serious flash of nostalgia for the good old phone booth. Turns out I needn't pine too much for times past, as Google is bringing back a version of the booths here in 2010.

As we reported Wednesday, Google is integrating phone calling capability into its Gmail service and plans to install vintage-style Google Voice phone booths in airports and universities around the U.S. to promote this new capability.

The booths come in the style of traditional red U.K. phone boxes and kind of remind us of those Doctor Who police box time machines. Users just step inside and pick up the handset, which looks like an old-style dial phone. After hearing a little Google Voice greeting, they'll enter a phone number (followed by the pound sign) to make free domestic and international voice over IP calls.

Search Engine Land took a look inside the booths at Google's campus in Mountain View, Calif., (see the vid below) and reports that "the sound quality is very clear. The biggest issue is that you have to wait about 10 to 15 seconds for your call to be processed." That's a switching delay that Google hopes to fix soon, the site's Danny Sullivan notes.

The phone calling service rolled out to Gmail users in the U.S. this week, with international availability coming at an unspecified later date. Google's also still determining how many booths will go up and where, according to Jason Toff, Google Voice product marketing manager. We hope to see a couple of these around San Francisco, preferably the windowless variety (time travel Google Voice over Gmail, here we come).