Google Voice is part of the ongoing effort by Google to diversify its products and services. If you have many different phone numbers, say for example a home number, a work number, a cell phone number, etc then you can use Google Voice (formerly GrandCentral), a free service from Google to link them together. This means that you have various features and options available right at your fingertips to control all your phone numbers instead of having to worry about them separately.
So what are the features for Google Voice you ask? Well, to begin with you choose a single number (only US phone numbers available at the moment) which you can then use with Google Voice to control all of your phone numbers. This means that you can for example set which number rings when you are off at work or you can call International numbers for as low as USD 0.01 per minute.
You can also manage your any SMS you receive and send or forward or store them. You can block numbers from which you do not wish to receive calls or screen callers. Other useful features include the ability to receive the call using any of your phones, or even switching phones between a call. You can listen to voicemails online from phones or you can even read transcripts of the voicemail online! Additionally you can forward or download the voicemail messages.
You can make conference calls (that is call more than one person at once to set up a meeting or conference call) or set up which phone rings when a certain person or group calls for example your cell phone would ring if a member of your family calls. Directory assistance, checking your inbox from your mobile phone, personalized greetings by caller and listening in to callers before taking the call are all standard features. Another interesting feature is the ability to record calls and store them online. And if you are dissatisfied with your current number you can even change it, although a certain amount is charged as a fee.
True, there are some criticisms of Google Voice at the moment – mainly that it is limited to the United States and foreign based users have to pay a fee to make calls that are in essence local for them. Furthermore, features are often reduced for foreign users.
Additionally the service is somewhat limited for people in Hawaii and Alaska at this point in time. Considering however the fact that calls to US based numbers are free and that the service itself is free too, these seem like minor problems. The only major problem, in fact, is that other than Grand Central account holders, the service has been limited to people issued invites.
This despite Google’s initial claims that Google Voice would be open to all in June 2009. All in all Google Voice seems to be an almost evolutionary concept, that seems like the next step in the phone call service particularly considering how very much something of the sort is needed as almost every person has at least two to three phone numbers.