GrandCentral, a “one number for life” service provider acquired by Google in July 2007 is being reborn as Google Voice, a comprehensive service that is essentially a Microsoft Office-type suite of communications-related services. I say that because the new service is a collection of VoIP-related features that one can typically get from different startups. New features include:
1. You can use your GrandCentral number to send and receive SMS messages, and have them forwarded to your current wireless phone. You can send messages from the mobile or from the phone.
2. Make phone calls using the web or your mobile/landline phone.
3. You can get transcripts for voicemails left on Google Voice. These transcripts, based on internal Google technology currently being used by GOOG-411 service, can be sent to you via SMS.
4. Create conference calls by dragging phone numbers onto existing calls. This will be useful for small businesses and web workers.
5. Free calls to all U.S. numbers. You can make international calls but that will cost you, depending on the country you are dialing.
The original GrandCentral features, such as voicemail screening and personalized greetings, are still available. Your voicemails can be emailed to you as attachments. Just as a warning, the upgrade to Google Voice won’t allow you to take your GrandCentral address book with you, since the new system uses Google Contacts. In addition, the service doesn’t work with those of you who have Google Apps accounts; you’ll need Gmail accounts. Lastly, they make you use Google Checkout to pay for international minutes. No thanks — I am happy paying with PayPal and/or credit cards.
At the time of the launch of the service, Vincent Paquet & Craig Walker, co-founders of the company had outlined this vision in a conversation back in 2006. With Google Voice, GrandCentral is truly becoming “one number for life.”
Bottom line: The Google folks upgraded my account, and after some heartburn, I got it working. As part of its new life as Google Voice, the GrandCentral web site has been redesigned to resemble Gmail, which I like mostly because, like many of you, I have become used to the sparse user interface. The SMS, voicemail and transcription services worked as advertised. The upgrades are truly worth the wait, and I have no hesitation in recommending this service to one and all.