Why I love Google Voice - What VOIP SHOULD BE!!
Many of you have, no doubt, been hearing the rumbling about Google getting into the phone game. Now, I really love Google for a couple of reasons...they use their clout and assets to innovate and generally to make all of our lives better...and their model is also generally to do so without charging the average Joe....now, what is not to love about that!
Anyways, so Google has done a few things in the phone arena, they have developed a operating system for smart-phones called Android, they have 1-800-Goog-411 (FREE 411 for those of you who do not know) and a while back they bought a VOIP/PBX company called Grand Central....from all of this and a bunch of other magic that the Big G has going on comes Google Voice. Currently the service is invite only.
Get your invite here Google Voice Invite Request Page
OK...so Google Voice...lets get down to the meat and potatoes. Most of us have several things that we hate about our current phones (cell, work, home etc.) Phones are supposed to be communication devices, but we want them to be so much more. We want them to be our own personal assistant...allow us to talk to who we want, when we want, block out those we dont want to talk to, reach us anywhere and compile and manage our various messages for us, whether they are voice , text, chat, Facebook, e-mail etc. Google Voice comes about as close to actually achieving all of this as anything I have seen so far.
Most wireless voicemail systems are confoundingly difficult to TRULLY utilize...what I mean by that is, they are so NON-user friendly that we tend to only use them for the basic things like retrieving and listening to voicemails, leaving voicemails and maybe forwarding voicemails. The cool features that allow for us to select different outgoing messages by caller, get message detail (time, caller duration etc.), forwarding features and the like are generally not used. In addition, many times the information that we want to get is in the wrong format...i.e. it is a voicemail when you are in a meeting and cant listen to it or it is a text message when you are driving and cant read it (of shouldn't anyways.) These are just a couple of my little pet-peeves I have with the current message management ability of our wireless/home/work phones... they just so happen to be some of the issues that Google Voice tries to tackle.
So enough ranting already....here is why I love Google Voice....it is my personal assistant. I can drill down to a very fine level what calls I want sent where...I can ring all of my phones (cell, work cell, home, office etc) all at once, or I can choose where I want a call or message sent based on the caller, time of day and several other criteria . I can choose different outgoing voicemail messages based on the same criteria or even give a "out of service" message if it is someone I REALLY do not want to speak with.
As you look at the screenshot above you will notice that the Google Voice interface looks very similar to the Gmail account homescreen. It is just as intuitive to operate as well. In addition to the call management options I listed above and the ease of use, I am also a huge fan of the message management components. Specifically the ability to recieve your voicemails in text form. Google voice will transcibe any voicemails that you recieve into text form and will send these to you via e-mail, sms etc....this is GREAT for those of us that can not always check voicemail or who do not want to spent 30 minutes going through a tons of voicemails...I like to call this Voicemail Triage...I can sort for the important stuff first and get to the rest when or if I can...my Verizon Wireless phone had the ability to scroll through messages and I am pretty sure I was paying between $5 and $10 per month for it..and that had no dictation or forwarding in text features....this feature alone is worth the price....oh wait, it is all free....my bad.....hahahah I LOVE GOOGLE!!!
I have noticed a couple of glitches every now and then and get an occasional timing out on the interface homepage, but for the most part it is running VERY well. I also love the option to use your own number, though you do loose some of the neat features when you do not use a Google issued number.
What the future may hold from Google is going to be anyones' guess. I find their dabbling in this tyope of service to be very interesting. In addition, the scuttle butt is that there may be a desire to pursue a packet voice over wireless/cellular technology....this COULD mean basically unlimited calling anywhere in the world for anyone with a data connection on their handlheld...and a device capable of running the software. I am sure that the wirless companies are going to fight this one tooth and nail but if the past is any indication, inovation is a very hard thing to supress as long as it is timely, well executed and driven by real consumer wants and needs.
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