The idea behind Google Voice (which is actually a re-launch of a product by a company Google purchased in 2007 called GrandCentral) is to create a way to solve the problem of having more than one phone number and several answering machines. The service also aims to solve once and for all the problem of missing calls made to one of your numbers (home for example) when you are away on vacation.
Among the most notable features of Google Voice is its smart management of voice messages, which now can be accessed from any mobile device, listened to online, or read as a text message – this, due to a novel software that can transcribe voice messages and send them as e-mail or text messages.
Google says its new service can benefit both private and business users – the latter can especially benefit from the simultaneous ring feature, which allows a single call to be forwarded to several phone devices, ensuring that received calls are rarely missed. Team HOPE, a support network for families of missing children, already gives callers Google Voice numbers that trigger phones of several staff members to make sure all calls are answered.
Another interesting feature of Google Voice is call recording. During an incoming call, the user can press a single button to start/stop the device’s recorder. This can be done in any type of phone device and the recording can later be exported as an MP3 file. In addition to that, the user can get conference calls for free with a maximum of four people.
Google reports that all calls within the United States are free with the new service, while international calls are considerably cheaper when compared to the cost set by traditional providers. For example, calling a landline in Paris using Google Voice will only cost about 2 cents a minute.
The only blemish in the system appears to be that the user wouldn’t be able to call a number directly, but would need to go through a process of dialing their Google number first, pressing the numeral ‘2’ on their keypad and then keying 011 followed by the country code and the recipient’s number. Furthermore, since the system acts only as an incoming calls service, outbound calls cannot be recorded. In other words, features such as voice recorder and conference calls can only be employed on calls that are made to the subscriber of Google Voice.
Google has not yet opened up subscription to Google Voice to the public – at this moment, the service is only accessible to users who have already signed up for GrandCentral.
TFOT has recently covered several of Google’s projects, including Google’s recreation of Ancient Rome, which was recently launched on Google Earth, Google’s new browser, called “Chrome,” and Google’s “Knol” e-encyclopedia service, which allows users to contribute their knowledge in a wiki-like format.
Additional information on Google Voice can be obtained at Google’s website.