Immersed as I am in web applications and research, I tend to take for granted that news that might seem “old” might not in fact be “old” for the vast majority. Take Google Voice, for example. I have known about Google Voice for months now and have gotten into the fray with it, played with it, coddled it and cooed to it. But that doesn’t mean that you have. And maybe you have heard about it, but don’t really know what it is all about and would like to hear more.
Google Voice used to be a service known as GrandCentral before it was eaten Jonah-like by the Google whale in 2007. Check out the official Google blog and related links here. It is a free service, like other Google apps, and employs VoIP (voice over internet) to permit you to group your phone numbers together and manage them from one location – Google.
It is currently only available in the United States. You can select one of several numbers in various area codes across the country (there were pages and pages of available numbers in my area code). Once you select that number, you authenticate your existing home, work, cell and other phone numbers via your GV number and can then stream your calls from these disparate sources into your GV number. You can then route calls based on the original number source, contact group and time of day.
Routing isn’t the only cool feature. You can get voicemail with transcription that can be accessed either by your computer or your phone. You can also mark callers as spam and NEVER HEAR FROM THEM AGAIN (can you tell I like this feature?). You can assign voice mail greetings based on the caller and switch phone lines during a call. You can forward SMS and you can record calls.
Access your settings and information via the website. I copied this list of features from the Google Voice Wikipedia entry:
- A single Google number for all user’s phones.
- Free calls and SMS in the contiguous US.
- Calling International phone numbers for as low as 0.01 USD per minute.
- Call screening. Announce callers based on their number or by an automated identification request for blocked numbers.
- Listen in on someone recording a voicemail before taking a call.
- Block calls.
- Send, receive, and store SMS online.
- Answer an incoming call on any of your phones.
- Phone routing. Choose which phones should ring based on who calls.
- Forwarding phones.
- Voicemail transcripts. Read voicemails online.
- Listen to voicemail online or from a phone.
- Receive notifications of voicemails via email or SMS.
- Personalized greeting that vary greetings by caller.
- The ability to forward or download voicemails.
- Conference calling.
- Record calls and store them online.
- Switch phones during a call.
- View the web inbox from a mobile device/phone.
- Set preferences for contacts by group.
- Ability to change your number for a fee.
Undoubtedly, Google Voice is a new visualization and implementation of conventional phone technology. I haven’t fully incorporated it into my daily routine, but I am working towards centralizing my telephonic life and reaping the benefits of GV’s maximum control and organization.
Readers may be aware of the recent brouhaha about Apple’s rejection of the Google Voice application from the App Store, sparking an inquiry by the FCC into Apple’s and ATT’s actions and intentions. While this posturing plays out, I understand that a “work around” has been achieved via the mobile web. I am looking forward to it, as I am hoping to drop my business line in favor of an iPhone-powered GV line.
How do you get Google Voice? Well, if you are a grandfathered GrandCentral customer, you have it already. If you aren’t, as I wasn’t, you can request an invite here. If you do check it out, I would love to hear what you think of it, your experiences with it and how you are utilizing it in your communications practices.