After a prolonged wait, I finally got my invitation to try out Google Voice. While not without its quirks, it offers a lot of functionality with relative ease of use.
Google Voice issues you a new phone number which you can attack to land line or cell phones. You can actually use the service to ring all of your phones at once if someone is trying to reach you. People can dial the Google Voice number and it will automatically forward the call. The next thing that happens is when the phone rings, Google Voice will try to ID the person who is calling you to see if you want to accept the call.
This is where one of those quirks comes in. I found that you did not have a very long time to make a decision and find the number that coordinated with the option that you wanted. If you use the line a lot, you’ll get over that issue, but it will take some practice. If you elect to take the call at any time in the conversation you can hit the ‘4’ key and have it record the rest of the conversation. It will take this call and automatically forward the recording as an mp3 to the e-mail you have linked with your account, or you can change to setting to just let it live in the Google Voice account.
Next, if you don’t want to take the call, you can send it to voice mail. This time Google Voice will attempt a speech to text translation and e-mail that to you. Like all speech-to-text, it bungles a lot of it up, but it can give you a solid idea of what the person was trying to pass along. Just don’t count on it to get detail like addresses and phone numbers correct. The voicemail is also recorded and becomes downloadable as an mp3.
The last main feature is the calling and SMS feature. From the Google Voice page, you can initiate a free call between your Google Voice attached phone and any number in the US. I found the connection process was a bit slow, but once you were connected the quality was surprisingly good. VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) has certainly come a long way from the old days. You are also supposed to be able to send SMS messages to any number, but I had some problems with this and a couple of my test messages never got through. Unlike a phone call, it’s hard to verify if texts have gone through, so you might use this feature with caution.
Overall, I’m very impressed with the service, especially considering that you get it all for free. However, to use it you have to get invited by Google and I had signed up over 6 months ago before finally getting my service recently. So if you are interested, get yourself on the list now, and you might get invited by Christmas.
Google has announced an automatic invitation service for members of the military. That is, people with .mil e-mail addresses. This is a nice touch and I think people in the military overseas can really use this to get audio messages from their friends and family members in this country.
Have you used the service? Think you might sign up? Let me know in the comments.