Google Voice to Offer Phone and Messaging Services


google-voice-logoGoogle Voice wants to be your phone manager, SMS and voicemail provider. The service is rumored to be almost ready for public access.

Google Voice germinated after Google (s goog) acquired GrandCentral almost two years ago. The service was relaunched earlier this year as a private beta for GrandCentral users. I’ve been using it for a while, and am generally impressed. Google Voice offers a number of features that should make it popular with web workers.

Incoming Calls and SMS

  • You are given one phone number that can be configured to ring multiple places — office, home, cell phone or even an account on the VoIP service Gizmo5. (In the past, users were assigned a new telephone number. Apparently, it will soon be possible to port existing numbers to Google Voice.) Sound quality is quite good, although there can be a delay in transmission, which causes awkward pauses. It’s rather like a better version of talking via satellite.
  • If you are not available, voicemails are recorded. They can be transcribed and sent to you by email or SMS. The accuracy of the transcriptions varies, but ranges from fair to excellent.
  • You can choose to screen some or all callers, and have them speak their name before the call is forwarded to you. You can set up groups, and allow some callers to bypass screening.
  • You can “listen in” on callers as they leave messages, or record calls.
  • You can import your contacts through CSV files.

Outgoing Calls and SMS

  • Google-Voice-screenshot-2You can make outgoing calls through the Google Voice web site. Outgoing calls are free in the continental U.S. International calling rates are quite reasonable, and are competitive with many VoIP services.
  • With the Google Voice Add-on for Firefox, you don’t even need to go to the Google Voice web site to make calls. You can just click the add-on and enter a number. And the add-on recognizes phone numbers on web pages and makes them clickable links, too.
  • You can also send SMS messages through the Google Voice web site and the Firefox add-on. When you do so, you are assigned a number in area code 406 that allows recipients to reply.

There are a number of other useful features, including conference calling. The complete list is at Google Voice help.

Are you already using Google Voice? Will you sign up once it becomes available?

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