August 4, 2009

Review: Google Voice

There has been quite a bit of buzz lately about Google’s latest communication product, dubbed Google Voice. This handy little web application is obviously stirring up some emotions between Google, Apple and AT&T. It even got the attention of FCC to muddle the water. So what is Google Voice? For one, it is the evolution of a product once called Google Grand Central. I vaguely remember signing up to Google Grand Central account couple of years ago and shortly after it was closed to the public. After polishing Grand Central for some time, Google re-released it as Google Voice; again it’s limited to few beta invitees and legacy Grand Central enrollees only.

Google Voice’s main function is to be the hub of all your telephony needs. By assigning one new phone number to you, you can use Google Voice to manage all aspects of your communication needs (screening calls, block calls, call-forwarding, voicemail, SMS, visual voicemail, text transcript voicemail, cheap long distance dialing, conference calls and lots more). By creating a “Gmail” like UI, Google Voice opens up another dimension to the good ole’ phone number and allows you to be in full control of your calls with your keyboard and mouse. If you already have a well-organized Gmail account, the contacts/address book plugs in nicely as well.

The biggest convenience to Google Voice probably having one web-based application (for remote access) for all of your communications needs. Having a voicemail emailed via text to you can be really handy (for now, transcribing is English only, when I tested Spanish, Chinese and Japanese, it just made out some funny English terms). Having a screen to capture your voicemail and SMS is also handy. Setting up the account wasn’t difficult but it did take some time to make sense of it all. Once you have the account configured, things work pretty flawlessly. I tested some of its features like placing a call, VM, and SMS which all worked as promised.

Google Voice for Mobile
While Google Voice application for iPhone was mysteriously rejected by ___ (insert: AT&T or Apple), they have made a good effort in delivering a solid mobile experience to users. For starters, if you own an Android phone or BlackBerry, the good news is you have a native application to use which includes cool VOIP dialer functionality. For the rest of us (WM, Pre, iPhone folks), we can still access a mobile website at Google.com/voice/m and get majority of the functions. Stay tuned for followup blog entries on Google Voice for Android and BlackBerry phones.

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