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Summary:

I have too many phones. I feel better having admitted that. Right now I have the flagship smartphone on every major U. S. carrier — Verizon BlackBerry Storm, T-Mobile G1 (Android), AT&T iPhone 3G and the Sprint Palm Pre. Wow, that’s a real mouthful! Now, before […]

Google Voice logoI have too many phones. I feel better having admitted that. Right now I have the flagship smartphone on every major U. S. carrier — Verizon BlackBerry Storm, T-Mobile G1 (Android), AT&T iPhone 3G and the Sprint Palm Pre. Wow, that’s a real mouthful! Now, before everyone jumps all over me, I readily admit I don’t need all of those phones — in fact, I could get by with one just like everyone else. My work here, though, means I need to cover not only these phones, but the carriers, too, so thus the stable of smartphones. Having four phones (and phone numbers) has been driving me crazy, but this week I got into Google Voice, and I am living free and easy now.

Google Voice is still in private beta — you have to get invited in to get an account. It’s been running for a while now, and those who had Grand Central accounts (Google bought them) got grandfathered in, so quite a few of you are already enjoying Google Voice. I didn’t have an old account, so I never got an invite, and I’ll truthfully admit I pulled some strings to get one. I won’t name names, as I don’t want anyone to get in trouble, but thank you, you know who.

Once I had the account active, I entered in each of my four phone numbers. The security was top-notch; after entering in a phone number, Google called that phone and asked me to enter the security code on the phone that was displayed on the computer screen. Once that was done, my phone was activated on the Voice account. I repeated that three more times, and all four of my phones were activated for Google Voice.

Why is Google Voice making me so happy? I now have the one Google-supplied phone number to share with others. That one number now reaches me, either phone calls or text messages, no matter which of the four phones I am using at the time. Yes, when someone calls me at the Google Voice number, the service starts trying to reach me on all of the phones. Whichever one I am using rings, and I talk away. If I don’t feel like talking, I can send it to voice mail, just like a normal call. Text messages work the same way; I get them right away and can even reply to them via Google Voice on the phone. Nice and easy.

I can’t state emphatically enough how big an impact this has had on my life. Prior to Google Voice, I had to decide which phone I was going to use on a given day, and then manually forward the other three phone numbers to that phone. More importantly, when I switched phones, I had to remember to cancel all of that forwarding and redo it to the new phone. I forgot that more than a few times and missed calls. I would miss voice mail frequently, too. I could never remember which phone number I had given a particular contact, either.

Google is onto something big here with Voice. It’s still in beta, but it’s solid already and can only get better. It’s making me a happy caller once again, even though with four phones, I am the exception and not the rule. Oh, did I mention they do text transcriptions of voice mails?  I am using that to leave myself voice mails with ideas for posts that get transcribed so I can copy and paste it to start blog posts. Woot!

  1. That will be a handy feature, when smartbooks & netbooks begin to support cell phone calls, SMS/MMS, etc. (made possible, when an OS like Android, Moblin (with oFono), etc. is running on them).

    - If you only have your smartphone with you, you get your calls.
    - If you only have your smartbook/netbook with you, you get your calls.

    I like it!

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    1. turn.self.off Wednesday, June 10, 2009

      another option would be to have some kind of SIP server, so that with a client on the computer you could use a hotspot or other wireless connection to connect to said SIP server and get calls that way.

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    2. turn.self.off Wednesday, June 10, 2009

      ah, checked their help site, and i see that one can forward to a gizmo number!

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    3. Rick Huizinga Wednesday, June 10, 2009

      Yes, but the quality is very poor. It varies a lot, but about half the calls I’ve placed using Google Voice with Gizmo to be unusably poor.

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  2. Good job you are not an Automotive journalist isn’t it? You would have to get quite a large garage!

    That has got to be the lamest excuse for HAVING to have 4 phones. Are you testing your logic with us before trying it on your better half?

    Stop denying the Geek in you!

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    1. My better half complains about this cost regularly. :)

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  3. Sounds excellent. I have been on the waiting list for Voice for months, but still haven’t received an invite. Given that you recently received your invite, should we assume that Google has “opened up the books” and are finally inviting more folks into the beta?

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  4. Rick Huizinga Wednesday, June 10, 2009

    James,

    How are you finding the call quality of Google Voice?

    I’ve been using it for more than a month now and am on the verge of giving up because of the poor call quality. I have noticed two distinct scenarios:

    1) Google Voice can also forward calls to a Gizmo VOIP # so you can receive and place calls on your PC for free (like Skype). With these calls I have had widely varying voice quality and I have given up on this scenario as it is often impossible to hear what the other person is saying.

    2) Google Voice to cell phone: The call quality seems to be OK most of the time, but definitely worse than making a call directly on your phone. Occasionally the call quality is very bad and the conversation is difficult to follow.

    For using Google Voice from your smartphone, I highly recommend getting a Google Voice dialer. On the iPhone, I am currently using GV Mobile which provides a dialer using the iPhone address book, access to Google Voice SMS messages and voicemails.

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    1. I have noticed no issues with cal quality on any of my phones.

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    2. Rick Huizinga Wednesday, June 10, 2009

      I just placed a call by Google Voice that I had to redial using my cell phone (directly). The reason: the call quality was not sufficient to allow the receiving automated system to recognize touch tones required to enter my account number.

      I’ve experimented with call quality by calling TELL-ME (1800-555-TELL) and testing whether the voice recognition works. My conclusions were:
      1) Cell phone call (directly): voice recognition works almost 100% of the time
      2) Skype: voice recognition works almost 100% of the time
      3) Google voice through cell phone: voice recognition works about 60% of the time
      4) Google voice through Gizmo: could not get voice recognition to work

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    3. Rick Huizinga Sunday, June 21, 2009

      This weekend I used Google Voice with a 3G cell phone and the call quality was vastly improved over my experience a 2G cell phone.

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  5. James – Its the bill for 4 x mobile contracts that we worry about.

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    1. You and my better half.

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  6. Rick Huizinga Wednesday, June 10, 2009

    One other drawback when using Google Voice is that calls dialed out using your Google Voice phone number will not be billed as “mobile-to-mobile” minutes. This is because outgoing calls work by Google Voice first dialing your number, and once you answer it then dials the other party. As a result, to your phone provider, the call will appear to be an incoming call from your Google Voice # and will likely count against you’re anytime minutes.

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  7. I’ve got Google Voice myself, and I don’t actually use it. It’s just too much of a hassle for me to have to use the website to dial out or to use the extra digits for redirection of my outgoing SMS messages.

    It’d be great if some of these people hacking the Pre through developer mode would get it to do that natively and transparently, because I’d love the transcribed voicemail. As it is though, I only have a work phone at my desk, and my cell phone, so the forwarding features aren’t that useful for me anyway.

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  8. I’ve been trying to get onto the Google Voice Beta forever now ._.; I know you can’t pull any strings to get people on, but did the guy you talk to give any hints of when it might be ready for us mortals to use? My brother got into Grand Central and won’t stop telling me about how amazing Google Voice is. I’d really love to see what all the excitement is over. Between posts like yours and the iPhone Google Voice app, I almost wish that Google Voice users were under NDA. ><

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    1. I keep hearing Real Soon Now.

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  9. You don’t happen to have any invites floating around yourself to hand out to your loyal readers? Wink wink.

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    1. No, they don’t give members invites. It seems to be closed.

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  10. I do love google voice but in the time that I got it (I got it when it was run by grand central) I have moved clear across the country and the people in my current town would never dare call a number based out of LA for someone they think is in NY I would use it so much more if I could change my area code

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