By Alok Saboo on March 12th, 2009
Google is getting ready to recreate its magic with its new service Google Voice. Google wants to change the way you use your telephone, much as it revolutionized email usage with Gmail. Google Voice is the new version of Grandcentral, which Google acquired in July 2007. Read on to find out what to expect from Google Voice.
The basic philosophy behind Grandcentral remains unchanged in its new avatar. Like Grandcentral, Google Voice lets users centralize and control their telephone services, screen callers, make calls, transfer calls to multiple phones, etc. But Google has made significant changes to the Grandcentral, laying to rest all the complaints about ignoring Grandcentral.
- Look and feel: If you already have used Grandcentral, the first change you will notice is that the new site is very similar to the other Google sites, especially Gmail. All your Gmail contacts and groups are available in Google Voice.
- SMS: Google Voice has added the much needed SMS support. Now you can send, receive and store text messages, like you do on your mobile phone. This is interesting!! On one hand Google disabled third-party text messages on Google Talk citing financial constraints, on the other hand the company has allowed free text messaging on Google Voice.
- International Calling: This is probably the most important feature of Google Voice (at least for me). Google Voice now allows you to make cheap international calls. Calls to USA numbers are free, while those to other countries are charged. The international calling rates are not the cheapest, e.g. call to India is 7 cents per minute, Pakistan is 9 cents, China is 2 cents, etc. But given the (expected) reliability and the brand name, lot of users would start using the service. Google Voice also provides a $1 free calling credit to test their service.
- Conference calls: Google Voice also has added another useful feature, free conference calls. Now you can easily add multiple parties to your current call to create free conference calls.
- Voicemail transcription: Transcription is one of the most talked about feature of Google Voice. Google uses advanced speech to text technology to convert voicemails to voice emails, that you can read quickly and decide whether you need to respond or not. Although the speech to text technology is not perfect, it is good enough to give you a context of the message. To be fair, Google Voice uses bold text for part of the message that it’s more certain of.
- Call Widgets: Google Voice also provides you with call widgets that can be put on any web page, allowing people to call directly from the web page.
- Other features: Other features include, call recording, mobile interface, group handling, personalization, etc.
You can also have a look at the video demonstration of these features. While these are some great features, there are some obvious missing elements:
- Gmail integration: Google voice is not perfectly integrated with Gmail. There are no filters, rules, etc. Also, when you upgrade to Google Voice, all your Grandcentral contacts are replaced with your Gmail contacts. So, if you have important numbers in your Grandcentral contacts, please back them up to ensure you do not loose them. Given that both the services are geared towards simplifying communication, a closer integration is inevitable. Mind you, the service is still in beta, so this may come up in the future.
- SIP support: This is something, I would sincerely hope from Google Voice. We do not want another Skype.
In summary, Google Voice is nice service and would greatly benefit users. It would be interesting to see how it evolves and how the other providers react to this. Google Voice is currently available to GrandCentral users, however, Google assures that the service will be ready for new users in “few weeks”. Meanwhile you can put your name on the beta request.