Saturday, July 25, 2009

My Take on Google Voice

Well, I’ve been trying out the new Google Voice for a few days and I got to say, it’s a neat idea and a great service! I’m enjoying the new service immensely. I don’t get anything from Google to say these things but they have come up with and put into work, another great idea to make life easier. Other than the fact you get a phone number that will never change (unless you change it), you also get a way to manage and track your voice messages, your calls that you’ve missed, and a convenient “send to all” service that tries to reach you where ever you may be.

Let me tell you a little bit about the way it works for me, my Google Voice number is now the “gateway” to my communication resources. If someone needs to contact me, it’s an amazing convenience. In the past, I gave my cell phone number to all my friends. Some people though, thanks to previous business cards or business dealings, had that number and my home phone number. Also, some businesses and some people only had my home number because I only wanted to deal with them at home (or not at all).

That’s where Google Voice fits into my world. It’s my new secretary. When someone calls the Google number, which I am planning to use exclusively as my only number in the future, all my phones ring. At the moment, that means my mobile and my home numbers (but in the past I’ve had as many as 3 mobiles). The caller Ids still work so I can see who’s calling. Then, I can choose to answer or not. Here’s the great part though, if I’m busy, I can let Google Voice take the voice mail, after it does that, it sends my mobile notification by email that I received a voice message and transcribes it in the email so I can read it. If I choose, I can call my Google Voice number and receive the message like a traditional voice mail but sometimes, reading makes quick and easy work of finding out what people want. The transcription part does need just a little work but the messages are very close to what the callers intended to say. On my phone, if I click “play” on the email, it will automatically go online and play the message for me as well. That’s another quick and easy way for me to review my messages. It’s really cool.

Another thing that is nice about this service is that I’ve set it so that if someone uses my current mobile number (from AT and T), the voice mail that picks up is Google Voice’s as well so I don’t lose the emailed notification or record of the call online even if they use my original mobile number. Oh, and when people call my home, my home still gets the call alone (not forwarded) and the message stays on that answering machine so I’m not bothered by telemarketers ha ha!

That brings up another good use for Google Voice. It’s a great way to keep track of what your friends or co workers wanted and when. Most email programs tell you how long it’s been since you got that message whether it’s on the phone, online, Pigeon, Outlook, or Thunderbird, you can quickly see when requests were made and what they were about. If you ever need a legal record as well, such as if someone is bugging you leaving many messages on your phone, they’ll be a written record of each and everyone with the words said in your email account. It might be invaluable for some people or in some situations.

Anyway, you can probably tell, I think this service rocks! Google has always been an innovator of many great products that they’ve graciously kept free for all of us users. I really hope it stays this way for Google Voice as well.

As an aside, an experiment I am anxious to try soon is to take a trip out of the country to Asia or Canada and add a local number there to my Google phone list. For calls from the Google system, like on Skype, you need to pay per call outside the country but the per minute charges seem reasonable. If calling a Google Voice number can connect to a sim card in Asia for example, it would be a great answer for friends and family “here” to reach me “over there.”

I should say a thing or two about improvements too. I do like the fact that Google Voice also allows you to send SMS text messages for free. That is another added conveniece for those of us who don't have text message plans. I pay for internet so I choose not to pay for texts. Sending texts from the Voice site is quick and easy from my phone. An improvement I hope they come out with soon is to give email notification of text messages by email as well. It's strange that text messages end up in your inbox yet notification does not go out to email to let you know you have a message like it does for voice mail. I have turned my SMS notification off and do not allow Google Voice to text message me so I have to check a few times a day for text messages on my Google Voice page. I hope that sometime soon, we'll get notified by email of anything in our Google Voice inbox. That would make it even better.

All in all, it’s a great tool for business or personal, the sound quality is great too even though I’m not sure if it’s really a VOIP system or land line based, I’ll keep using it and for me, it’s another great technological convenience that I’m thankful for.

*The Google Voice logo is from my Voice homepage and is property of Google.

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