If anyone knows me, they know I play with things for no reason, that is my nature. With that said, whenever I find something that I haven’t used, haven’t heard of, or could find any reason whatsoever to try, I will. That is the case with Google voice. Google voice is not new to many, but it is to me. This pseudo telephony service has been available to many people for some time… since they took over GrandCentral in 2007, but they announced the service will be available to EVERYONE for free not too long ago.
The idea behind Google Voice is simple, it is your one stop shop for almost all your telephony needs. You get voicemail (recorded and transcribed), FREE sms, one number to manage ALL of your phone numbers, custom greetings, international calling at a discounted rate, call screening, conference calling, and a slew of other features too exhaustive to mention.
The idea that you can have one local phone number to manage up to 6 phones you may have or may end up having is a beautiful thing. If you have a cell phone, a home phone, a business phone, or any combination… you can have each of those ring simultaneously until you are reached. For business owners or very popular people this helps to ensure those that need to get a hold of you… can.
The Voice interface used is one you will be familiar with if you have used other Google services. The menus are well thought out and offer all the popular features to the user quickly.
voicemail is handled in a few ways.
- Traditional recording – with no time constraints on saving messages, you can save them forever!
- SMS – voicemail messages will be automatically transcribed to text and sent to you via email and/or SMS
- Real-time voicemail – Listen in on voicemail messages while they are being recorded giving you the ability to screen your calls.
The voicemail clarity is sufficient, however, it could be improved as it sounds highly digitized. The key here is remembering that this is a free service. All your voicemail messages are stored in an email-like format. They are displayed on the screen and you can move them around to different folders, mark them as important, save them forever, or simply delete them. With each voicemail message you are given the ability to call them back, respond with a text, mark it as unread, add a note, block the caller, email, download as an mp3, or embed the message. You even have the ability to store and play different voicemail greetings for different groups of people in your contact list.
The voicemail transcription service is a very nice feature. It allows my voicemail messages to be sent to either my email, my phone as a text message, or both. The downfall is that the service is not Jersey friendly… meaning that it doesn’t do a good job of recognizing words spoken from someone that talks funny. I gave it a quick test leaving my self a message saying “You ain’t nothing but a hound dog, crying all the time” and received “You ain’t nothing but I have to go hi and all the time.” in a text message. Click here to listen to my message: hounddog
You can also place calls from Google Voice. The task is accomplished in one of two ways. You can do so through the web interface, or log into Google Voice from your cell phone’s mobile browser and place a call. Either way, this is the only way that your Google Voice phone number will be displayed on the recipient’s caller ID. This is part of the confusing aspect of Google Voice. You tell everyone to call your new number, but unless you dial in either of the two ways listed above, they will see a different number. Receiving calls is done the old fashioned way… answering them.
Text Messaging is an added bonus. Most people would not want to replace text messaging on their phones now because of its convenience, however, this raises the bar a bit. Outside of having a visual record of all your text messages and conversations, you can send messages from your phone or the web, manage them like email, and one other thing… SEND UNLIMITED TEXT MESSAGES FOR FREE! That’s right, there is no charge for text messaging. This won’t make the cell carriers too happy. As you can see from the message transcript below, my Fiance thinks I am a weirdo!
You can easily import your contacts from various applications in a simple CSV or vCard format.
- CSV files from Outlook, Outlook Express, Yahoo! Mail, Hotmail, Eudora and some other apps.
- They also support importing vCard from apps like Apple Address Book
The in-call features are quite useful as well. You have the ability to conference up to 4 people in one call, transfer the call to another one of your phones, or even record the call (be careful with this – it will announce that you are recording too).
With the ability to manage your telephony from one single location, get a free local number, manage groups, and a list of features that extend far beyond those discussed here, Google voice has a real winner here. There are things to be leery of though as you are giving Google a ton of information that they don’t currently have. They will now be able to track, analyze, and categorize you based on your phone and text conversations now. The only difference here is that this is Google doing this now and not your current telephony carrier. I guess you have to give up a bit of privacy to obtain a free service these days, but that is something I am willing to live with. Google voice can easily simplify things, and having the ability to access all of these features for free makes me feel like I am stealing a lollipop from the counter when the clerk isn’t looking. Bottom line? Would I use Google voice?… Yes.