Date: Tuesday, March 25th, 2014, 08:42
Category: Android, Apps, Google, iOS, iPhone, News, Services, Software, Telephony
After five years, it looks like Google Voice is going away…at least as an independent service and app. In 2007 Google acquired GrandCentral (started in 2005) and eventually rebranded it and launched it as Google Voice in 2009. Very little was done for the switchover, from a user standpoint, other than to incorporate the service into Google’s infrastructure. I had a GrandCentral account and it was nearly identical to how Google Voice works and looks today. According to 9to5Google, sometime in the coming months, Google plans to depreciate and eventually phase out the service with its features to be rolled into the Google Hangouts app.
Google has already begun migrating Android’s other telephony services, like SMS, into the Hangouts app and users have recently been able to make “phone calls” to friends using Hangouts. True VoIP functionality is expected to make it into the new and improved Hangouts app much like how it works in Google Voice now, except for the possibility that calls may be initiated and handled entirely by the app. The way that Voice works currently is that calls to your Google Voice number are routed to your phone through your existing carrier, acting as a kind of middle-man to relay calls to your phone. In theory, if Google adds the ability to make and receive VoIP calls, it could bypass to need to have a cellular carrier. In reality though, this only works if you have a data connection to the internet, so some kind of carrier plan would still be necessary, but whether Google would pick up that challenge and run with it is another question. Assuming carriers wouldn’t loose their <bleep> over this is likely to be a deciding factor, although it may simply mean that carriers would offer data-only plans which would still use their networks, but probably get rid of things like “minutes”, “peak call times”, and other terms we’ve associated with voice plans over the years.
I don’t see this as a bad thing necessarily. There is the convenience of having all of Google’s messaging services in one app, however, will it end up feeling bloated and doing too much? On the web side it’s fine, but it could result in unwanted complications when using the app. Even Apple and Facebook split up their services into separate apps and that seems to work well. Ok, Facebook really only has a separate (useful) app for Messages, but I think they finally got it right when they added the function of automatically switching between the Facebook app and Messaging app when needed. I’m not sure how it’s handled on Android devices. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind if Facebook broke out the Events section into a separate app as well. It would make some tasks a lot quicker.
Google says that the final integration is still a ways out, so we may yet see some changes to the plan. I’ll be ok with it as long as it still functions essentially the same way it does now, including the call relaying. I use Google Voice as a second phone line and I’d hate to loose that convenience. How do you use Google Voice now? Will it improve or detract from its usefulness being a part of a single app? Let us know what you think in the comments.