A few years ago a company called GrandCentral launched with the idea to give you one phone number to manage all your incoming calls and voicemail. As someone who likes to embrace new technology, I signed up for a local (518) phone number way back when, but never did much with my GrandCentral phone number, besides configuring it to ring both my home and cell numbers, and giving it out to a customer or two. It worked as advertised, but wasn’t too exciting.
Google acquired the company for more than $50 million in 2007 and just recently relaunched the service as Google Voice, adding some cool new features. Currently, only those of us with GrandCentral accounts who activate Google Voice can use it, but you can request an invite here (or try to buy an account on eBay).
In the meantime, here are some of the highlights of Google Voice:
- All incoming calls to one number: Though I haven’t jumped on board yet, I could give out my single number to everyone I know, and control when and where those calls ring.
- Custom ring schedules: One of the really cool things about Google Voice is that you can set up custom ring schedules for each of your phones. For example, if I’m using Google Voice to direct work-related calls to my home number, I probably only want that to happen during weekday business hours and not on weekends. Done. Likewise, if I’m traveling and don’t want to miss a call from my customers, I probably want to have my Google Voice number go directly to my iPhone and not even bother ringing my home number. Done.
- Free outgoing calls: Call anywhere in the U.S. free of charge. Other people will even see your Google Voice number as the caller ID number. And like Skype, there are nominal charges for international calls.
- SMS Messages: You can send and receive text messages right through your Google Voice account. I tested this using my account on my iPhone with a friend and his iPhone, and it worked great. It was smart enough to use the iPhone text messaging app and to display the text as coming from my Google Voice number.
- Call groups: Using your Google contacts and groups, you can control whose calls ring which of your phones. So if I always want calls from friends and family to ring through only to my iPhone and even play a particular voicemail greeting, I can do so.
- Voicemail transcription: If you miss a call or have it sent directly to voicemail, get an email with the transcribed voicemail and a link to the message. You can even opt to receive notification of new voicemails via text message.
Gmail-style user interface: The entire Google Voice experience is managed through a slick, Gmail-like interface that will be familiar to anyone who already uses Gmail:
Lots more features are outlined here.
Google loves to be the inbox for the world’s information, and the company is giving us a lot of incentive to make the switch and manage all of our incoming calls through Google Voice. I’m likely going to make the jump.
Read TechCrunch’s recent review of Google Voice here.[ Subscribe to gabeanderson.com via email or RSS feed. ]