Google Voice

Google finally got around to doing something with its 2006 acquisition of Grand Central.  That something is Google Voice (announcement).

David Pogue raves about it in the Times.  For people with complicated lives, Grand Central was a breath of fresh air.  Now, he says, Google Voice takes that to the next level. 

Still, you can’t imagine how much the game changes when you have a single phone number, voice mail transcriptions and nondeleting text messages on every phone. Suddenly, your communications are not only unified, but they’re unified everywhere at once — the cellphone, the Web and the e-mail program. And all of it free — even ad-free.

There may be some fallout as a result; I’d hate to be a company that sells voice mail transcription or conferencing calling services right about now. But that’s life, right? Every now and then, a little revolution is good for us.

Essentially, Google Voice, is “one phone number for all your phones, for life.”  It gives you one phone number that can access all your numbers, whether they be cell, home, mobile, and work numbers; the Voice number stays the same, as many of your other numbers change over the course of a  lifetime.


TechCrunch breaks down some of the features you can expect. 

Text Messaging: Google wants people to use their Google Voice phone number exclusively (and in fact it’s the only way to use it properly). A problem with the original service – it didn’t allow text messaging, so you had to tell people your mobile number as well if you wanted to send and receive text messages with them. Now, Google Voice will accept text messages and forward them on to your mobile phone. You can respond to those messages as well. Google is using the existing Gateway technology (which is used by Google Chat) to power this feature.

Voicemail Transcription: Google also added a nifty transcription feature (which is using the same subscription service as Google 411) for voicemails. All voicemails are transcribed easily saved into the system and searchable. Users can add notes or tags to voicemails and each transcription details how confident Google is about the success of voice transcription; Google Voice highlights word in lighter color that they are not confident were subscribed properly. And transcription takes about 30 seconds to be seen in the system from the end of a voicemail. All in all, Google may have unkilled the dreaded voicemail.

Friend Settings: Google has added new settings that allow users to route calls from specific people straight to voicemail, or your mobile phone, etc, instead of having to state their name and then be forwarded accordingly.

New User Interface: The primary user interface for Google Voice is through your phone via an audio menu. But users can also log in to the website to administer the account and view activity. This interface has undergone a makeover – It now looks very much like a comprehensive Gmail inbox with tabs for Voicemail, SMS, Recorded calls, Placed calls, Received calls and Missed calls. And the Google Voice is easily integrated into the list of links to Google apps at the top left of each application. All SMS and transcribed voicemails are searchable and taggable, which is very useful and will change the way people interact with these messages. Google also says that full integration with Gmail is coming, but won’t say when. Personally, having all my email, SMS and transcribed voicemails in a single inbox could be life-changing. You can also respond to text messages from the interface and initiate phone calls, which then calls your designated phone and then the recipient.

Conference and International Calls: Google Voice also added a conference calling feature allowing conference calls of up to six participants and recording abilities. International calls can also be made through the system at very reasonable rates. For example, voice calls to France are $0.02 per minute, to France mobile phones $0.15 per minute, and to China $0.02 per minute. These rates are about the same as Skype’s international phone rates.

I don’t have multiple phone numbers, thankfully, but if I did then I would certainly want to use this.  No more deleting text messages or voicemails, etc.

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