Gadget Bugg: Review: Google Voice

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Review: Google Voice

What?

There are only a few times in a geeks life when he comes across something that is so revolutionary, so completely unique that he cannot just sit there while the rest of the world remains in silence. Google Voice is that something.

Google Voice is a service that Google has recently announced that has literally changed the way that consumers can communicate. When Google took over the search engine industry, it did so by being the fastest, most reliable, most accurate search engine around all while operating smarter. I predict that Google Voice in this way will completely take over the telecommunications industry.

Why?

So what does Google Voice do, and more importantly, why do you care? Google voice bought a company called GrandCentral, and basically added its own little something and made it public for free use. It issues you "one number to rule them all." It's primary function is to allow you to bind other numbers to that one number, so that if you get a new cell phone number you don't have to create one of those "I Got A New Phone Here's My Number" groups that everyone just loves joining on Facebook. All you have to do is give everyone your Google Voice number and link your phones to that number. That's it (check the video below for details).



Furthermore, you can actually link multiple numbers to the one Google number so that if someone calls you, you can have all of those numbers ring, or you can screen that contact so that, for instance, just one of your phone numbers rings and has a specialized voicemail. Keep in mind, it does all of this completely free. Oh, and did I mention that all text messages delivered to your Google Voice number will be stored on Google's servers for you to archive? Same goes with voicemails, and guess what, it transcribes them into text! Sweet!


Ok, so does it make sense why I'm so excited about this service? That's just the tip of the iceberg. Google Voice's secondary, and perhaps more controversial purpose is that it allows you to actually send and receive SMS text messages right from your computer or Google Voice app for free. Yeah, that's right, no more having to pay .10 cents/text or worry about your 250 text message limits. If a SMS is sent to your Google Voice and you check and respond to it from their website, it sends free (it also sends the SMS to your mobile phone and if you check it from there you will be charged a txt message fee, but if you respond using Google Voice, no fee). As far as calls go, you can make a call directly from your Google Voice account. All you have to do is it the call button and Google Voice calls your phone, and then connects you for free.


That's kind of a big deal, and this is where Google began to lose its support from the greedy hands of certain aspects of corporate America. At first Apple accepted it into its App store, but then later removed it and is currently in discussions with Apple and AT&T about the legality of the application, as it duplicates some of the services that AT&T provides to iPhone users.

Where?

So, if you were able to catch it before it was blocked by iTunes then you are currently enjoying your Google Voice app and all is well with the world. If you have a Blackberry or Android based phone, then you can get it now. If you don't have a smart phone, you can always use Google Voice's site to manage your Google Voice account.

Of course the million dollar question is: Wow, Pete, this Google Voice thing sure does sound cool, but where can I get my very own Google Number?

Well, loyal h2rtn fan, I'm glad you asked. You can obtain an invite directly from Google by the URL below:

Google Voice Invite





This will put you in the pool for an invite directly from Google. However, Google Voice just recently gave me some invitations to give out!

Who: Google Voice Invitations

As promised in my first blog post, I will be giving out my Google Voice invitations to my loyal readers. All you have to do is become one of the first 6 followers and I will send you a Google Voice invite. Not a bad deal, huh?


The Good

Google has begun a service that can completely revolutionize the industry. Free SMS, free calling, and a free number is something that no other company has ever done before. Google is currently making their money from low rates it charges for international calling. A hidden perk of Google Voice that I discovered is that it allows you to finally start managing all of your contacts in a place other than your phone. Google does a decent job synergizing your contacts from Gmail and Google Voice into one big pot so that you can have an online backup of your acquaintances. Google will allow you to pick whatever area code and phone number you want. You can even try to customize it if they have a specific word available. I was able to get (636) 22H-TRTN which is also (636) 224-8786. Feel free to send h2rtn a voicemail!


The Bad

Throughout my tests for this review, I was able to add my AT&T number to my Google Voice number without a problem. I downloaded the Google Voice app on my Blackberry and am using it without a hitch. However, it does sometimes get confusing when I forget who I have given my Google number to and people don't answer because it is from an unknown number. Texting from your computer is great! You have a full keyboard and can type texts at super speeds. However, the text messages still get sent to your phone which sucks if you have had a 20 text message conversation and you have to go in and delete all of those text messages.

Also, I have to pick on the transcription service. It does an ok job, but almost as expected it mixes up many words. It usually at least gets it partially right so you can get the jist of what the person is trying to tell you. However, I cannot tell you how great it is when someone calls you to get a transcribed version of that voicemail in your mailbox. It allows you to check your voice mail in a spot where your normally wouldn't be able to (sitting in class, work, etc.).


The Ugly

Google is currently no longer available via iTunes, which brings up the controversial topic of whether or not iTunes has a right to block certain developers. A lot of people are getting really heated up about this. Let me know what you think by commenting below. You can read more about the debate at Engadget:


The Great Google Voice Debate @ Engadget


Also not all carriers are supported. When I first heard about Google Voice I had an image of using a Magic Jack number, or a pay as you go Net10 number and getting free texting. So far, I have not been able to get either to work. I am still working on the Magic Jack number, however, as people say that you can get it to work. I will be posting a Magic Jack review shortly and will let you know how that worked out.


The Verdict

Google Voice is a techies dream come true. The first hackers (Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak developers of Apple to name a couple) began by hacking phone lines, attempting to get free long distance calling via hacking AT&T. Hackers went from hacking phones, to hacking computers, back to hacking phones again with the cell phone boom, and to me this is the next step. Google Voice has enormous potential, and I believe that it will go on to become even greater when it fully launches from invite only to widespread. After all, just look at what Gmail did to email!


Rating: 9.5/10


~Pete

pete.h2rtn@gmail.com

5 comments:

  1. I super liked your review. I have no comment on the itunes debate, since I don't use itunes, but everything else makes me excited. I've been jonesing for google voice since I heard about it a number of months ago.
    With or without an invite Pete (although I want one!) I am now a loyal fan / follower. I would say you don't need to make any changes, you are headed in a good direction. :) Gracias Amigo.

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  2. @Taiana: Thanks a lot for all of the kind words and input! It is viewers like you that keep crazy bloggers like me going. Shoot me an email at pete.h2rtn@gmail.com if you have any further insight!

    Thanks,

    ~Pete

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  3. I'll trade my wave invite for your voice invite. dzweers (at) gmail (dot) com

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  4. I have a Google Wave invite and will trade for a Google Voice invite. Email me at: tina*dot*louise87*at*yahoo*dot*ca

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