Archive for March, 2009

Google Voice: why it works so well for me

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I’ve been very vocal about my excitement for Google Voice. This is not so much a product review as some pointers on why I’m so happy with it.

It’s not a replacement for any voice service you have, it complements them all. It’s a big forwarding service, and that is very useful.

You get a real phone number assigned to you. I have a 415 that maps in the real world to San Francisco. People can call *OR* text this number. That second feature makes GV the first service I know of to allow this. My problem up to now is that I’ve used a Vonage virtual number (actually two: a 415 and a 212) and tell folks this is the one number that will ring through to wherever I am. The problem is that many folks assume it’s a mobile and try to text me, which then gets lost, often without an error message.

You set the service up to forward calls to your various phones based on rules. You can have it ring through to your office landline during business hours. It can ring through sequentially to each phone you have until you pick one up, or go to voicemail. I carry multiple mobile phones, and often have numbers that are given to me on a temporary/trial basis. Up until now, any time I called someone from the temp cell, or texted them, that phone’s SIM number shows up, confusing the person I’m calling.

The problem is now solved for me. From now on, I can just hand everyone this 1 number. When I make a call, instead of using the phone’s dialer, I launch the Google Voice app (it’s web-based for now, iPhone and other apps coming shortly), bring up my contacts list or punch in a number and I can sms or call. When I initiate a call via the web interface, my phone rings, I answer, then the call rings through. GV takes care of the charge for whatever US call I make (international is available for a charge).

But wait– since I never need to make any outgoing calls anymore, the service also once and for all obviates the need for long distance service. So I can ditch my Vonage line too, (or use it in conjunction with this if I really want, but all the Vonage features I use have now been duplicated by GV).

I can now also manage all my SMS from a computer. All SMS’s appear on the website and can also be fwded to a mobile. I can then respond by typing into my laptop’s web browser. And the texting is FREE. I’ve also heard it works without charge for international SMS (haven’t confirmed). It also assigns a 406 area code phone number to each non-GV caller you text, to which you can text back and they will get your GV caller id.

The voicemail service also does voice transcriptions. When a caller leaves a message, you get emailed or sms’ed a written message of what the caller allegedly said. My results have shown it to be *vastly* inferior to other services such as Phonetag (Simulscribe) and Spinvox– it makes many errors and often does not get numbers correct (arguably the most important part of a message). I wish GV would work with them, or perhaps things will improve over time.