Date: Friday, March 13th, 2009, 15:08
Category: Google, News
This week Google launched the latest of its technology services, Google Voice, an online voicemail service that promises “one phone number for all your phones, for life”. However, Google Voice did not originally sprout from Google’s tech labs, it started out as GrandCentral. The GrandCentral service was launched in 2006 and was acquired by Google in 2007 for US$50+ million. Shortly after the acquisition, Google shut down the creation of new accounts, so only then current subscribers (like myself) have been able to use the service.
Now after nearly two years, the wait is over…almost. Google has spent a lot of time rewriting GrandCentral to give it that special Google “glow” and is available to current GrandCentral subscribers only. Google will be doling out new accounts over time. Logging into your GrandCentral account
will may prompt you to “upgrade” to Google Voice and migrate your data. If you don’t already have one, you will need to create a Google account to do this. Once complete, you will be deposited into your new Google Voice Inbox and will have to recreate your custom greetings and assignments. The migration does not, however, appear to transfer your GrandCentral contacts or any messages you had in your inbox, but you can still log into your GrandCentral account separately to access those. Google Voice will use your Google contacts, if you have any, so you will need to recreate any missing contacts there. Any new calls you get to your GrandCentral number will be deposited in the new Google Voice Inbox.
All the original features are there, call-screening, custom greetings for different groups of contacts, sending SMS and email notices of received calls, and forwarding calls to other phones. With the launch of the new service, Google has added new features such as Voicemail Transcription which converts your voicemails to text and can be searched and tagged within Google Voice. You can now use SMS to send messages from your Google Voice number, rather than using one number for voice and a second for texting. This was one of the biggest complaints from GrandCentral users. SMS messages sent through the service will also be searchable and taggable. And competing directly with services such as Skype, Google has added conference calling with up to six people, with recording features, as well as an international calling service with rates similar to Skype’s. Your balance, as well as the ability to add credit through Google Checkout, are in the Google Voice sidebar.
It may have taken a long time, but the service seems to be mature enough now with the added features to be a suitable replacement for most people’s current voicemail services. It is especially compelling if you are already using other Google services, such as GMail, with it’s combined contacts and searching capabilities. Like Google’s other services, Google Voice will be FREE, except for the international calling feature, which is making the new service a highly prized commodity among online users. Account invitations offered by various news sites have already been spoken for and can be found on eBay for as much as US$650! I will be putting the new service through it’s paces to see if it is worth trying to switch over again and trying to get people to use the new number. Wish me luck!