Is Google's New "Click-to-Call" Another Step Toward Free Ad Supported Mobile Devices?

Last Updated Jan 8, 2010 5:06 PM EST

Businesses advertising through Google (GOOG)'s AdWords program should check their "Campaign Settings" lest they be charged for erroneous phonecalls triggered by the search giant's new, automatic, click-to-call feature. More seriously, both Google and Apple have cellphone devices that could allow cellphones to become free for those willing to put up with a minimum amount of advertising.

In an email to AdWords users on Jan. 4, Google told clients:

... the phone number and closest business address will appear as a fifth line of ad text when the ad appears on mobile devices ...
That means AdWords users need to make sure that the phone number listed in their Campaign Settings is actually a good number for customers to call, and not -- for instance -- the cellphone of the guy who set up the AdWords account, or the corporate HQ reception desk, or 867-5309.

Google had this advice for advertisers who are not ready to make sales over the phone:

... un-check mobile devices under the Campaign Settings tab.
Search Engine Roundtable had this to say:
It appears that this will be started automatically and as soon as Google launches this, I and other advertisers will have their phone numbers show up on mobile devices and be charged a cost-per-call when used.
Bloggers following Google were, predictably, enthusiastic:
I think this will become a HUGE revenue stream for Google in the coming years.
Indeed, it's one more piece of evidence that suggests the future of advertising looks more like a mass of late-night direct response ads than it does a set of epic Super Bowl monsters. Phandroid again:
Oh-- and that 100% free ad-supported phone everyone likes to speculate about? It's safe to say that Google would need to justify the cost with estimated revenue per handset. The deeper the mobile ad experience the more likely that is to happen. With location aware devices and determination of patterns/preferences, Google could offer advertising that is truly useful to consumers who see them.
This is an interesting point: Both Google and Apple (AAPL) now have advertising devices in the works that could -- in theory at least -- allow a user to own the mobile phone for free as long as they subject themselves to a certain amount of advertising.

(See Apple's email to clients after the jump.)

Apple's email to AdWords clients: