A Hands-on Review of Google Voice

As some of you may know, invites are being sent for Google’s new service aimed at simplifying your phone usage, Google Voice. I received my invite about 2 weeks ago and jumped at the chance to try it out. With so many features that appealed to me, I was like a kid in a candy store when I was able to play with it for the first time. For me, this service was a great solution to a lot of the complaints I have with using the phone. Being a Blackberry user, I was also VERY happy about the Blackberry app available right from the get-go.

Below, I will explain the layout of the site, then get deeper into a few of the main features. There are several other features to this service if you’d like to check them out for yourself here.

The Basics

The simplest explanation of how Google Voice works is this. Give out your new Google Voice telephone number to people. (Unfortunately, yes you need a new phone number.) When someone calls that number, it will ring all of your phones/ phone numbers. If you do not answer the call, it goes into a common voice mailbox.

The set up is really easy and only takes a few minutes to complete. You are asked to enter a zip code, then pick a new phone number, PIN for your voicemail. The next step is adding in your other phone numbers which you can be reached. Google displays a one time numeric code on the screen. You will receive an automated verification call where you are asked to type in the code. That’s all there is too it.

The layout of the homepage looks similar to a basic Gmail account.

At the top left of the page on the homepage, reside two tabs. One says Call, the other SMS (text message). If you click the Call tab, a window pops up with the option to dial a number and have the call sent to the phone you choose. If the SMS button is clicked, it offers to send a free text message right from your computer.

call-googlevoice

send_SMS-googlevoice

Farther down the left side are the options to click on the inbox, trash, history and Spam. Yup, that’s right, you have a Spam folder for your phone now. (More on that later.) You can also see the contacts, voicemail, SMS and other tabs down the left side.

Navigation-googlevoice

SMS

The text messaging feature is pretty cool. Aside from letting you send messages via the home page, it also logs them. Inside your inbox, you can see both their text and your reply. This feature may be very useful for a person who sends a small to moderate amount of messages. On the other hand, if you text like most people under the age of 25, you may have a very full inbox when you sign in.

Call Screening

The screening option is something that should have been around a long time ago. When someone calls your Google Voice number, if they arent in your contact list, they will be asked to say their name. When you decide to take the call, you are presented with four options: take the call, send the call to voicemail, send the call to voicemail and listen to the message as it is recorded or record the call. If you don’t have a need to screen your calls, this feature can be turned off in the settings.

Contacts

Since everyone already uses multiple Google apps in every other part of your web experience, it makes sense that Google Voice would be in sync with your Gmail contact list. If you have them separated into groups for personal and business for example, you can set up a different voicemail message for each group. If they are not in a group or even in your contact list, you can have a generic message for these people.

Spam

Okay, in my opinion this one is the second best feature. (I’m saving my favorite for last.) Just like an email, if you choose to, you can select a person or phone number as Spam. From that point on, when they call they are sent right into voicemail.

Voicemail Transcription

That’s right, you did read that correctly… Google Voice will email and/or SMS you a written copy of what was said in the voicemail. If you are anything like me, you dread listening to your voicemail messages; people either leave way too much information, or not enough. In your email or Google Voice inbox, you are able to both read and hear the voicemail. SMS and voice messages can be archived and starred just like in in your Gmail inbox. This feature alone was enough for me to make the switch.

How do you feel about Google managing your telephone needs?