Google Voice First Impressions

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Earlier today I received an email from Google inviting me to try out their Google Voice service (a search on Twitter for Google Voice proves I am not the only one). As a 5 year GMail user and fanatic of the company I obviously accepted. For those that don't know, Google bought a company called GrandCentral in 2007 and began switching their users over to Google Voice earlier this year. Here is a quick overview:

Welcome to Google Voice! Google Voice gives you a single phone number that rings all your phones, saves your voicemail online, and transcribes your voicemail to text. Other cool features include the ability to listen in on messages while they are being left and the ability to make low cost international calls. To start enjoying Google Voice, just give out your Google Voice number. You can record custom greetings for your favorite callers or block annoying callers by marking them as SPAM. Just click on the settings link at the top of your inbox. We hope you enjoy Google Voice.

Setting Up
As soon as I accepted the invite I was prompted to setup the service. The first and most important object to setup is your phone number. Google lets you pick the area code and search specific numbers or letters. For instance I put 305 and searched for GEEK (not available). So I ended up getting a semi random 305 number: three o five 3 nine 6 seventeen forty-seven (yes you can call me, I can choose to answer, more on this later). After picking your phone number you choose what numbers to forward calls to. You can add your home number, cell phone, work, etc and when someone calls your Google Voice number it will ring on all of them. So now that you have a number give it to your contacts.

Receiving Calls
Upon placing a call to myself a Google Voice greeting answers the number and asks for the callers name. When you pick up the phone you will see the Caller ID of the caller (you can change this in the settings to see Google Voice number) and asked if you want to pick up for and the name of given by the caller. The caller only does this the first time they call from a number. You have a few options upon knowing who is calling:
Press 1 to accept
Press 2 to send a Voice mail
Press 3 to listen in on Voice mail
Press 4 to accept and record
So basically when someone calls your Google Voice phone you will pick up, hear who is calling if you didn't see on caller ID and then press 1 to accept or just hang up to send the user to Voice mail.

Voice Transcription
Yes Google Voice has voice transcription! So when the caller leaves you a voice mail or you choose to record the call it will transcribe the voice to text. So far this has worked pretty well. I want to see how it performs with different accents and people. The even better news is that you can choose to receive the voice mail by email, so say you are in a meeting or class and can't pickup, the caller leaves a message and you can read it on your smart phone's email.

SMS Support
Google Voice also supports SMS. You can send SMS through the Web UI and people can SMS your Google Voice number. This is only accessible through the Web UI as far as I have seen. This is better than your contacts SMS message getting lost in the cloud somewhere.

Conference Calling
You can also start a conference call. Have all the attendees call your Google Voice number and press 5 to join them all in a conference. It's like free conferencing!

International Calls
So you can call internationally but not for free. However it is much cheaper than calling from your cellphone. You need to setup the call through the Web UI and you will receive a call connecting you to the international number you selected. Again, this is not free and you can transfer funds through Google CheckOut.

Conclusion
Google Voice looks promising and so far it has been free. I wonder how this new service will affect Skype and other Voice service providers. As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Till next time,
Jorge Orchilles

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chris said...

Nice post. Something I have been looking forward to for a long time.

July 9, 2009 at 9:15 AM