Google Voice gets ready for Prime Time

Google announced the release of their new service “Google Voice” on Wednesday. The service appears to be an expanded version of GrandCental, which is a service acquired by Google in 2007. Although this release is a preview (beta) and currently available to existing GrandCentral users only, those who are interested will not have to wait long for the full release. Google expects to have the service ready for new users within weeks, but in the meantime you can submit your email address to Google and they will notify you as soon as Google Voice is available to new users.

What is Google Voice?
Google Voice is an application that improves the way you use your phone. The service provides a single phone number for all your phones and this phone number is actually tied to the user, not to a phone or location. Although Google Voice is not a phone service, it allows you to manage all your phones. The cool thing is that Google Voice works with mobile phones, home phones, work phones, and VoIP phone lines. What’s more? You can actually access and make calls from the phone as well as the Web. Those of you who have multiple phones will enjoy the luxury of having a single number to reach each phone individually.

Some of the Google Voice features include personalized greetings by caller, voicemail transcripts, listen in before taking a call, forward or download voicemails, send, receive, and store SMS messages, record phone calls and store them online, and much more. The “Call Record” feature is “hot” because it allows you to press a single digit on your phone to start the recording and when you need to stop the recording you simply press the same digit again. This feature is only available for incoming calls, however, and before you get too excited, the party you record will hear a message informing them that the call is being recorded. If I’m not mistaken, almost all states in the U.S. require you to inform another party when recording a phone conversation. Therefore, this is not a Goolge Voice issue. Nevertheless, you can view the list of features that are available by visiting the Google Voice features Web page.

How does Google Voice work?
Google Voice allows you to receive all your calls through a single number. Just add existing phone numbers to Google Voice and then set up rules so Google Voice knows how to manage these phone numbers. Take a look at some of the resources I provided below to find out more information.

Would you like a Google Voice visual voicemail application for your phone?
Currently I use YouMail as a service to handle all my voicemails on my Blackberry and what I really enjoy is the visual voicemail application that I have installed. Visual voicemail is amazing and now that I use it I can’t imagine my phone without it. Unfortunately, Google Voice does not offer a visual voicemail application for the Blackberry – as of yet. However, after doing some homework I was able to find a Google Voice feature suggestion Web page that allows users to suggest applications and features they would like to see developed for Google Voice. As far as the Blackberry is concerned, if there is high demand for a Blackberry Google Voice visual voicemail application, and I believe there will be soon, we can anticipate Google to develop it in the near future. Just visit the Google Voice feature suggestion Web page and click the “Suggest It” button next to the application or feature that interests you. If the feature you would like to see developed is not on the list, simply select “I have another idea” from the dropdown at the bottom of the page.

Just to give a heads up
While the Google Voice service is free, there is a couple things worth mentioning.
First, contact your cell carrier regarding call forwarding. Most cell carriers do not charge for call forwarding to a voicemail service. However, if you are using Sprint as your cell carrier, call forwarding calls are charged at an extra rate of $0.20 per minute for each call that is forwarded. Second, port fort forwarding is unavailable with Google Voice, but if you visit the Google Voice feature suggestion Web page you can suggest this feature. Lastly, Google Voice currently does not offer 1-800 numbers or vanity numbers, but again you can suggest this feature.

Google Voice Resources
Google Voice Help and FAQs
Google Voice Blog
Google Voice Forum
Google Voice Features Suggestion

Google Voice Logo Credit: Google