Google Voice: Now for all to try (in the US)

Ronny Kerr · June 23, 2010 · Short URL:

Telecom service by Google offers voicemail transcription, one number for all your phones, and more

Google VoiceGoogle Voice is now open for sign-ups to anyone in the U.S.

Previously invitation-only, Google Voice had over 1 million people actively using the service, but its infrastructure was not yet prepared to take on the masses. Though Google won't say how many new users it expects to register in the coming weeks, Craig Walker, product manager for Google said, "we wouldn't be launching if we didn't have a lot of headroom and excess capacity to handle the growth."

For those not in the know, allow me to put it simply: Google Voice is a very powerful, very convenient, and very accommodating telecommunications service that almost anyone with a phone will appreciate. Reasons for using it abound.

First and foremost, when you sign-up for Google Voice, you are given the option to choose a unique Google number. You can either choose based on a particular area code or by typing in actual words that correspond to the keypad. With a Google number, you can tie your other numbers--home, mobile, work, etc.--to that one number, so that if anyone calls your Google number, all your other phones ring. Naturally, Google offers advanced options, like the ability to have the Google number ring a work phone by day and a home phone at night, or even base it completely off the incoming number.

Personally, my favorite part of Google Voice are the voicemail transcriptions. Taking time to check my voicemail has always irked me, and now I can avoid the matter entirely. Well, almost entirely. Transcriptions aren't perfect, but they're getting better all the time. And (remember, this is Google) all transcriptions automatically get saved to your Google Voice account where they can be searched by text or even emailed. You can set it up so transcriptions get to you by email, text, or both.

This one's not essential, but it's definitely nice: personalized greetings. For example, one could record one voicemail greeting for work numbers ("Hi, you've reached the office of Ronny Kerr. Leave a message and I'll be sure to return the call as soon as I can.") and one for friends' numbers ("Hey guys, good luck trying to get me to answer my phone!")

In addition to these central power tools, Google Voice also comes packaged with an SMS-to-email feature, caller blocking, and an easy way to create conference calls. Finally, Voice makes a throwback to old answering machine systems in that you can listen in on a voice message being recorded by the caller on the other line and pick up the call at any time.

Google Voice is available on Android-powered phones, BlackBerry, and the iPhone, though not as an actual app in the App Store. (This was a really big deal almost a year ago.)

While Google would probably very much like to launch Voice internationally, different telecommunications standards, laws, and costs around the world likely complicate the product's expansion abroad.

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