By Alok Saboo on January 29th, 2010
There was a lot of furor when Apple booted all Google Voice apps from the App store. So if you did not want to jailbreak your iPhone, you pretty much could not use Google Voice on your iPhone (yeah, yeah…you had the GV mobile version, but it was not even close to true apps. Even the latest Google Voice Mobile version does not come close). Not anymore, now you can truly enjoy Google Voice on your iPhone without jailbreaking!!!
Riverturn, the company behind VoiceCentral, has re-launched its app as VoiceCentral Black Swan (referred to Black Swan henceforth). I can safely guess that the name is inspired by Taleb’s Black Swan Theory, which refers to unexpected events of large magnitude and consequence. Having seen and used Black Swan for over 20 days now, I can safely say that Riverturn has justified the usage of the name “Black Swan”. The Black Swan is nothing short of revolutionary.
Here’s a complete review of version 0.9.1 (201001221814) (with lots of screen shots).
Since Black Swan is not distributed through the App store, so the installation is not a click in iTunes. Instead it is a simple click on Riverturn’s website. It is a different process, but almost as easy as using the App store. Once your account has been activated, you will receive an email from Riverturn with the details. All you need to do is open the email on your iPhone and click the link (I’m not revealing the link on Riverturn’s request). Once on that page, just bookmark the page to your home screen. That’s it!! I’m guessing that this process would change slightly once Black Swan is out of beta and Riverturn starts charging for it.
2. Look and Feel
Once you are past the first step of installation, Black Swan is virtually indistinguishable from a native app. I did a (unscientific) informal survey with my friends who own iPhones and no one could point out that the Black Swan is not a native app. The screenshots below will make this point clear.
Black Swan has all the usual features that you would expect from a Google Voice app. It lets you make free voice calls, send and receive unlimited free text messages (SMS), and even listen or read your voicemails. The interface is fairly intuitive, making the app extremely easy to use.
Making Calls using Black Swan – You can make a call through Black Swan edition like any other dialer. Just select the Keypad option and dial the number. You will get a call back on the number that you have selected. Just accept the call and Black Swan will connect you with the other party.
Managing your Text Messages (SMS) using Black Swan – Black Swan has a dedicated tab to manage your text messages (SMS). You can see all the text messages that you have received on your GV account here. You can also compose a message from the same window. You can either manually enter the number or select a number from the GV address book.
Managing your Voicemail using Black Swan – You can also manage your voicemails from within the app. Just hit the voicemail tab and you will see all the voicemails in your account. You can playback any voicemail or read the transcription.
Finally, Black Swan even supports landscape orientation throughout the app. Just rotate your iPhone/iPod Touch and the layout adjusts to the landscape mode.
4. What Black Swan cannot do?
For all the good things that Black Swan can do, there are some things that it cannot do. Firstly, since Black Swan is not a native app, it cannot access your iPhone address book (Apple does not allow Safari to access the address book for security reasons). This means you may have to enter the numbers manually. Kevin from Riverturn confirmed that they are planning to develop a free addon that will allow users to sync their iPhone address book with Google Voice address book, which can be accessed by Black Swan.
Second, it does not support push notifications. May be this will be addressed in the future updates, but as of now Black Swan does not support push notifications on iPhone. Although, you can use our earlier tutorial to enable Google Voice push notifications on your iPhone.
Finally, please note that Black Swan is still under active development and hence you may experience some issues with the app. Restarting the app should take care of most issues, but in case you are not able to use the app, report any such bug to the development team and they should be able to help you out.
In the end, I am truly excited about the Black Swan edition. Black Swan takes your mobile VoIP (mVoIP) experience to a new level. Please note that the app is still in very limited private beta (thanks Kevin and Riverturn for sharing the beta) and slated to be released very soon. If you want an invite, please register here. Also, you need an active Google Voice account to use the app.
p.s. While you are still here, you may want to explore 8 tips and tricks to use Google Voice Smartly.