A software package a day. Day 7: Google Voice

Google Voice is an interesting sideline for Google. An acquisition made by Google, the product was originally called GrandCentral. I finally got my invitation and am pleased to report that it works like a champ.

When you sign up you are given an option list of phone numbers in your area. I was able to get a “local” number that is easy to remember. Once you select the number, you give it a number to connect to that you already own. I used my landline and it dial it up and asked for the security code on the screen. Two digits later I had the connection between the new number and my land line up and running. I also added my cell phone. By default a call to the phone number rings both, but you can configure that default and more importantly configure how each caller is treated.

A quick rundown of the features:

  • A new phone number that is configurable as to how it operates.
  • The ability to make International calls at rates comparable to Skype… but you get to use your cell or land line phone instead of a goofy headset. Outbound calls dial up the device you specify.
  • Massively useful call screening features, which are so numerous they deserve a nested list.
    • First time callers record who they are, after that the system remembers the announcement.
    • You hear the announced name and have four options to deal with the caller.
      • Accept the call normally. This is what you would do with a friend.
      • Send to voice mail. This is what you would do with someone you will deal with later.
      • Send to voice mail, but listen and pick up with the * key (a new take on old fashioned answering machines, this is a nice touch).
      • Accept the call and record the audio. This is what you do when you don’t know the caller, or for business calls that need to be recorded.
    • You can group the people who call you into groups and decide how to deal with them:
      • Which phones should ring when a member of the group calls.
      • Custom greetings (for example, a personal one for family, an official one for business or unknown callers).
      • Directly connect the caller.
  • There is also a really interesting option to put a widget on a webpage that allows people to call you, yet keeps your phone number private. If you remove the widget, those callers can’t call anymore (unless you gave out a direct number in your contact with them).

There is more as well, with SMS messaging, transcription of voice messages into text (which really works quite well) that are sent to mobile phones via SMS (making the transcription feature even more useful. After a week living with it I am disconnecting my dedicated land line for my personal business and using this instead. Because business lines can’t be added to the Federal Do Not Call Registry, that line had been a great source of annoyance. Now telemarketers get to talk to my answering machine and I can evaluate the call quickly based on the transcript.