Initially your first thought is, “why would I want Google to manage my phone calls? Calling is already so straight forward, what could Google offer?” Not only will you probably get this service and like it but you might even change your phone number because of it. With Google Voice you have to pick a new phone number which acts as a hub to your old phone number(s). When someone calls your Google number you can have it call your work phone, house phone and cell phone all at the same time then whichever you answer on picks up. You can put your contacts in categories so that your friends will go to your house and cell but not work. I could see how this is useful for some people, but I only have 1 phone.
Here’s a list of the features from Google . You really should go through and check out the videos for each feature, theyre only about 20 to 60 sec each. One thing I realized while watching the video was that anyone who has a landline just got unlimited free long distance. Once your landline is registered as one of your numbers you can either call your Google number to place the call to a contact or a new number, or use the web interface to place the call. All calls to the USA are free and they have a pay rates for international calls which I hear are cheaper than skype and far cheaper than your mobile or local carrier. The benefits of skype on any phone.
Google Voice also handles your voice mail. You can send calls from specific people or groups straight to voice mail. You can even block numbers so they’ll get the classic “Boo BOO BEEP – We’re sorry the number you have dialed is no longer in service…” When you get an incoming call it will tell you who is calling and you can press 1 to accept the call, 2 to send to voice mail, 3 to send to voice mail but listen in, or 4 to answer the call and record it. That’s right you can record your calls at anytime by pressing 4 to start or stop recording. Recordings are available through the web interface where that can be downloaded, shared, or embedded in html. Voice mails can not only be shared, downloaded, embedded in html, but also TRANSCRIBED which can be emailed or texted to your phone. They admit transcribing isnt perfect but it seems to do ok for now. Bold text is used to accent words which are more likly to be translated correctly. And of course given time the technology will improve. Another great improvement to voice mail is the ability to have personalized voice mail greetings. You can have a professional one for people you dont know as well as work numbers, then have a more relaxed one for your friends and a third for your family.
I mentioned earlier that the service can announce who is calling, it not only does this using your contacts but can also be set to screen your calls. When an unknown number comes in you can have the person say their name, Google then remembers the name and calls you saying so-and-so is calling. You then press 1-4 to decide what to do. It’s like your digital secretary. When your currently talking to someone and you receive a third call Google will tell you who is calling and you can press a button to swap over like normal or you can press a button and easily merge the calls. This happens all the time with friends trying to figure something out and they all call each other, now you can easily merge calls. One last cool thing; say your on a call and you just got to work/home, your battery is dead, your don’t want to use precious mobile minutes, or maybe you get bad reception. You can press * to have the service call your other numbers and once you pick up on that line you can hang up the cell phone and continue your conversation.
The service isn’t available to the public for another few weeks, and I must say this has huge potential. If nothing else it can get free long distance to those without a cell phone. Is it just a matter of time till they are reading the transcripts of my voice mail to send me more accurately targeted ads like they already do in gmail? Probably, but I’ve always been willing to give up the privacy between me and a Google server in order to give me better ads. We gave up privacy between ourselves and computers long ago.