Okay, I’ll admit I’m a bit prone to getting overly excited about cool new Web apps. I may or may not have spent the better part of 6 hours searching through, trying, and evaluating every imaginable blogging application for Mac before finally choosing one (I picked Blogo, but that’s another post).
Rarely, if ever, have I been so excited about an application as I was about Google Voice (formerly GrandCentral), the new service from Google that I’m fairly convinced is going to have huge effects on how we use our phone. Trouble is, GV has long been under a private beta, and only recently opened it to more users (though still not to everyone, sadly).
About 10 days ago, I finally got the invite. I furiously signed up, picked my number, and got going.
As I played with the software, I found ten reasons that everyone’s going to love Google Voice, and one huge, mammoth-sized drawback (for now).
It Rings All Your Phones
Do you have a work phone, a home phone, a cell phone, a Blackberry, and some other crazy telephonic device I’ve never heard of? Google Voice will ring them all (or whichever ones you want), and you can answer from whichever one you want. No more “I’m at the office for ten minutes, then home for an hour, then try my cell…” Just GV.
It Records Your Calls
One click of a button, and your call is recorded. Awesome for everything from interviews to making sure you get the phone number your friend is about to read to you. Everything gets stored in the GV system, and is easily accessible online.
It Sends Free SMS
Text messages sent to your GV number go to two places – any phone you choose, and the GV interface. You can respond from within Google Voice, or send them from your cell phone. Texting, at least for me, is more and more prevalent in day-to-day life, and GV makes sure you’ve got them covered. And for free, if you’re sending from GV.
It Runs on a Schedule
Want to be rung on your cell phone in the morning, office phone in the afternoon, and not at all after 11pm? Done.
It Transcribes Your Voicemail
When someone leaves you a voicemail, it’s both recorded and transcribed. You’re sent a notice, either by email or text, letting you know you have a voicemail, and including the transcription. The transcription isn’t perfect, but it’s darn good – good enough to know what’s going on. If it’s not, just click a button, and listen away. No entering passcodes, and pressing 1, and then 3, and then 7. Just read or listen, and act.
It Lets You Play Favorites
Every setting in GV can be specific to one person, a few people, or whatever you can come up with. Group your contacts and sort them by ringtone, or whether they can even reach your phone (it’s easy to send someone straight to voicemail). If you only want your friends calling you at night, GV can do that.
It Keeps Your Privacy
Having a Google Voice number means you’ve got a new measure of privacy – your actual cell, work, or home numbers aren’t given out. Worst-case scenario, you can always change or delete your GV number, and be rid of the issues. Also, GV lets you embed widgets on websites saying “Call Me” to let people call your GV number, without ever revealing your number. Your personal information, and even your number, is protected well by Google.
It Consolidates Everything
All your voicemails, texts, and call logs, all in one place. If you’re anything like me, that’s absolutely a dream come true.
It Lets You Unplug
With one click, the “Do Not Disturb” feature turns on in Google Voice, and it will leave you alone until you come back. People can still call, text, and leave messages, and it’ll all be waiting in GV when you get back. If you need to get away, Google Voice lets you do it better than just about anything else, while still collecting all the data you wouldn’t want to miss forever.
It Moves Your Calls
How many times have you been on a call, only to notice your battery’s dying? If you’re me, the answer is approximately 821,576,342 (yeah, I counted). If you’re on a Google Voice call, one button pressed, and all the other phones associated with your account start to ring; simply answer one of them (ideally one with a better battery) and keep on talking.
There is, as I see it, only one major problem with Google Voice:
If you call my Google Voice number, and I call you back from my cell phone, the number you’ll see when I call isn’t the GV number, but my actual cell number. That’s a problem, and will do a lot to prevent people from fully switching over to Google Voice. Google is fixing that (they’ve already done it with Blackberry and Android), and are promising that you’ll soon be able to port your existing number into Google, thus avoiding any changing hassle at all, but for now, it’s a pain.
So, if you’re on the fence about Google Voice, get off the fence and onto the invites list. It’s US only right now, unfortunately, but hopefully that’ll change. And if you get the chance to become a GV user, I’m betting you’ll be as converted as I am.
Photo: Carlo Nicora