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The perks and pains of Google Voice – A First Look

2009 July 18
by Eddie

As an avid Beta tester I must admit that the excitement of receiving that new product invitation email never dulls. That is very true for the email I received earlier this week inviting me to Google Voice.

The service is particularly sweet for any Android users that are already syncing their Google contacts with their phone. Google Voice can see these contacts as well and label all your incoming calls.

The Google Voice interface looks very much like gmail.

There has been a lot of buzz about the product and its features, so I wanted to share my findings to anyone who may care, so here it goes.

A snapshot of a Google Voice inbox

A snapshot of a Google Voice inbox

‘Follow Me’ Technology

First let’s talk about the high-level concept.   Google Voice connects all your telephones on one number (Chosen at sign-up).  You give out your new Google Voice number and now you can enjoy that magic ‘Follow Me’ technology.  When someone calls that number it will ring one or all of your phones, depending on the schedules you set up. (Yes! you can setup schedules for each line you add).

So that’s the experience on your end, but what about your callers?  Well for them its pretty seamless, they call one number and get you wherever you are.

Google Voice Voicemail

But the real charm is the voicemail features.  So after 5 rings they get your voicemail. (No, its not 9 rings or 2 minutes like some people have stated, I don’t know where that’s coming from.)  The message they leave will be transcribed by Google’s servers and your sent and email and SMS notification lickety-split.  Here’s one of the pain points I did find to be true, the transcription is not 100%.

I had a friend call me and leave the following message for my Google Voice voicemail;

” Hi Eddie, I’m leaving you a message to see how well Google will transcribe the voicemail, and I want to add some difficult words like hippopotamus and lobotomy”

And according to Google Voice, this is what the caller said;

“hi eddie i’m leaving you a message to see how it will little 10 10 if your voicemail and i want to have some difficult where it’s like it’s upon this lobotomies”

Ok, so not incredibly accurate, but the redeeming factor is that this is an additional perk, and you can always fall back on the old fashion way of actually listening to you voicemail. Also I imagine the caller’s tone and volume has a good deal to do with it as well.

Not all callers are greeted equally

One of the sweetest perks to Google Voice is the understanding that you have different groups of callers. Some are friends, some are colleages and some are just annoying.

No worries cause Google voice will route them all differently. Maybe your friends get the old “Hey” as a voicemail so they will talk for 3 minutes before realizing its a machine, but that’s not very professional. So any co-workers will get a much more boring “Hi this is X’s Cell phone, please leave a message”. And lastly, any numbers that you mark as SPAM will get a short notice before being sent to a black hole.

Some more talking points

The Perks

  • Conferencing on the fly
  • Switch your phone on the fly
  • You will see the end user’s name and number when they call just as if they called you directly.
  • They will see your new Google number, so they will always call back the right line.
  • Unknown callers are asked to leave their name (optionally) so before you accept the call you can hear who’s calling.
  • You can screen calls as people leave messages, and grab the call if you get a sudden whim of mercy.
  • Every phone you attach can have a schedule, and are only rung through on that schedule
  • Cheap international Calls
  • Integration with your Google contacts (which is an obvious perk to any android users)
  • You can record any incoming calls on Google’s servers where they will be retained for your future access.
  • Receive SMS summaries of new voicemail in about a minute.

The Pains

  • There seems to be a good delay during calls each way. It seems to vary a bit (perhaps some of my calls are being routed through Holland first)
  • The voicemail transcriptions are not 100% accurate, but maybe 70%

Well that’s my experience so far.  I might have more findings as my use continues, but I can say at this point I am incredibly satisfied with the experience.

2 Responses leave one →
  1. Matt Trudeau permalink
    August 19, 2009

    I’m using the mobile app on my blackberry mostly for free SMS messaging. I know at work we spend an unholy amount of money each month on SMS messaging. It would be great to use an app like this instead of purchasing a text plan or even worse, just paying for each message. Maybe this is why google voice was rejected from the app store? The app could be considered a threat to carrier revenue. Text messaging charges is like bread and butter for these carriers. Any threat to that revenue has to be dealt with.

  2. Eddie permalink*
    August 19, 2009

    Thanks for the comment Matt! I suppose you stumbled here from the TechForum…

    I take it your referring to Apple’s app store… I haven’t heard any legitimate reasons from Apple, but you make a great point.

    One can also get free phone calls if you have a ‘inner circle’ or ‘friends and family’ plan. Adding the local transfer station makes all incoming and outgoing calls free. I am not sure if AT&T offers a similar feature.

    I think carriers would be wise to move to a standard unlimited plan for text and voice as I imagine Google Voice won’t be the last such application.

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