After a long awaited anticipation, Google is launching its call management system aptly named Google Voice. There has been a keen expectation from businessmen and Google followers alike. With its capability to tie all your phone numbers into one powerful account, give you the flexibility to decide how your calls are managed, and a lot of other noteworthy features like voicemail-to-text transcribing, surely this phone management tool is worth the wait.
This ingenious system started out in 2007 when Google bought a phone service named GrandCentral. For the next two years, the GrandCentral successor would be in beta version, limited to subscribers and exclusive to handpicked top industry players.
There is progress in the field however; Google is now allowing a few number of new subscribers to avail its Google Voice. It’s finally letting keen outsiders do a test drive of its services for free. It is projected that Google will at some point bill its clients for the services via a handful of possible revenue streams like membership fees, monthly dues, advertising, or even a totally new way of monetizing the service. The fortunate chosen subscribing today however, gets to use the service for free.
Google Voice is an online management system focusing on the organization of your voice / phone calls. It makes the job easier of having a ton of different phone numbers (i.e. work number, mobile number, home number, etc.) by combining it to a single unique phone number. A feature that sets it apart from existing phone services is its ability to move with you wherever you go. Think of it as an e-mail service you can log-in at anytime, anywhere in the world. Access to its services isn’t tied down to one computer or a particular location, not even to a particular mobile network. It allows the user to change numbers, mobile handsets, and even jobs without having to set-up a new account to manage the new numbers. It’s flexibility to accommodate a limitless number of changes to its subscriber’s phone accounts truly gets a lot of people hyped up. Google is also exploring to add more features to the already incredible service by letting its users port their current numbers to the system.
The famed service differs to other online service in a variety of ways; users need not buy or install any external software or hardware to access the service, and there’s no need to use the computer to make calls. Google Voice allows subscribers to place calls using Click2Call as an add-on feature, but not as a requisite to make calls. Although its ultimate goal of handling the entire user’s phone lines into a single manageable account is a definite allure, there are still bugs and complicated features that we hope Google can look into in the near future.
The beauty that lies in Google Voice is composed of many things, mainly:
1) Ability to screen in advance your calls and choose to either forward them from your account to a number of your phones, or directly to your voicemail. The user has the ultimate power to decide which phone should pick the call up depending on who the caller is.
2) Capacity to alert you by sending a text or SMS whenever you receive a call.
3) Craft to send you e-mails or text of your voicemails in transcribed form.
4) Letting you listen to received voicemails while they’re still recording.
5) Advance screening of your calls by requesting the name of your callers and recording them.
6) Personalization of greetings depending on the caller.
7) Ability to record your conversations over phone and let you listen or review them through your memory storage in Google Voice inbox.
8) Freedom to choose which phone you should use, even in the middle of a call.
9) Having your calls connected for free by using the GOOG411 to state the name and address of a business.
10) Ability to call U.S. numbers for no cost.
What lets Google Voice function in this particular excellence is the fact that it is a browser-based application. As mentioned, there is no need for installation or download of any kind on your PC or mobile phone to avail of the service. Patterned after most of its applications, Google has made it a pledge that this service has a friendly user-interface that is easy to adapt to. It features a clean layout that makes it simple to navigate, including the settings page which houses the different tools and options.
Initial go-through is optimum when using an internet browser on your PC, but the user also has access to all main services using a smart phone. As expected though, the mobile view layout is made to fit the smaller screen. Subscribers have reported the difference of easy navigation on a laptop via Google Chrome browser, as against the tough smaller version of the interface on a mobile phone.
For primary set-up, the user is required to submit a number of phone accounts into his Google Voice service. There’s no problem in starting with one number but you might want to increase the number of phones as you get the hang of it.
For security reasons, adding a phone number to your account will let Google Voice automatically call it. You will receive a two-digit code that verifies you as the owner of the number. This will prevent subscribers from abusing the service by adding numbers that they don’t own.
Setting up more phone numbers is a walk in the park. There might be a few bumps along the process but none too complicated to fix. A subscriber reportedly had to go through the verification process for his two additional phones twice. At first, Google Voice had a problem verifying the numbers as it stated in the subscriber’s inbox. The second tries proved to be successful in registering the two phone lines. This problem might be due to the fact that the subscriber was too eager to hang-up the phone, causing Google to lose connection early.
The Good and the Bad
The quality of Google’s Voice is beyond amazing. It lets the user forward his incoming calls to one or more of his numbers, or even direct them to his voicemail. Another wow-factor would be the ability to personalize the user’s greetings for certain individuals or particular groups which the user can organize. You can be saying “hi” to your family, “what’s up” to your friends, or even “out of reach” to your boss – kidding. The user can automatically import his contacts from his Gmail account or Google Talk to his Google Voice account for quick reference. Apart from this, updates made by your Google Voice contacts also appear in your other subscribed Google applications, and vice versa.
An area that probably needs improvement would be importing a user’s list of contacts from non-Google powered applications. This process can be tricky for those who are not familiar with spreadsheet programs. The user will have to extract the contact data into a CSV file to be able to successfully import it to Google Voice. Aside from this, there is also a 3,000 contact limit per bundle, when importing.
Another feature that needs to remain on beta is the voicemail transcription service. While it has the potential to dive Google into a whole new era of telephone communications, it still has a few kinks which the company admitted to in its tutorial. Upon receiving a voicemail entry, the service self-regulates its transcription into text (sms) or email form that you will receive. There are certain issues with this feature involving the caller’s accent, diction, and even the service’s familiarity with the words used. It is not advisable to rely on the service especially when dealing with important details, rather have a listen to the recorded voicemail instead.
A subscriber reportedly left a voicemail that sounded like this:
“Hi honey, I will be standing by the court down during the half time show. Please write down the directions which you’ll get later this afternoon to get us by the gate. I expect you to meet me there as soon as you’re done. You can take the 71st street and exit on the turnpike. You’ll have to turn left at the first chance you see. See you later, bye.”
The receiver later got a transcribed text from Google Voice stating:
“hi honey I will be standing by the honda touring the half time snow please right down the directions which you’ll get eight this afternoon to get us by the gate I expect you to meat me there as noon as your done you can make the twenty first strip and exit on the turned bike mule have to turn left at the furs chants you see see you later bye.”
The Need to Record
Recording conversations is an easily accessible feature of Google Voice. It allows the subscribers to store recorded phone calls for a review or a listen later. In one press of a button, you can easily start recording a call which will be saved in your inbox and as an additional audio file copy.
With its accessibility, there have been criticisms about its security. It is illegal in some states to record a conversation without the participants knowing it. Google Voice combated this potential abuse by playing a message on the start of the recording to let the call parties know, as well as another message when stopping the recording. This way all the parties are knowledgeable about the recording and if one doesn’t want to participate then he can just keep silent or put the phone down.
This particular feature has gained Google Voice a number of loyal subscribers. The convenience and ease-of-use has set a standard for telephone companies and other mobile services. However, limitations on this feature are present; including the ability to record a conversation only when it comes through your Google Voice number, receiving it from any other number won’t work, and calls made through the Click2Call or Return Call services also won’t let you access the feature.
The Sum of it All
This call management system is quickly gaining popularity over the industry – fame well deserved. Google Voice offers a whole lot more features than what this article has tackled. Surely it is worth a try. It’s not going to cost you a cent; I don’t see any reason for you to not give it a shot.