Google Voice

Google launched Google Voice n March 2009 to help Internet users better manage their voice communications.  Initially, Google Voice was available to existing users of GrandCentral, a service Google acquired in July, 2007.  So, I have been waiting patiently for the past few months and was finally invited to try out the Google Voice Beta a month ago.

Google Voice can be a useful service to simplify your phone communications. You can set various preferences–for example, calls from your colleagues get a custom answering message; calls from your parents don’t ring your work number; and calls from your spouse are answered directly when you pick up the phone rather than run through the Google Voice options such as answering the call, sending it to voice mail, or listening in on the voice mail.  Also, Google Voice allows you to get a single phone number that rings all your phones; screen callers before picking your phone; join several people for a conference call; record phone calls and store them online; read voicemail messages via email or SMS; forward, embed, or download voicemails; receive transcripts of your voicemail; send, receive and store SMS messages online; customize voicemail greetings for different callers; and block unwanted callers.  Furthermore, you can use the Google Voice to make international calls (paid service but quite inexpensive) and access Goog-411 directory assistance.  Specifically, I like to access my voicemail online and read the voicemail messages via email or SMS. I think it is easy to check e-mail for voice messages than traditional voicemail particularly when I am out of town.

Until few days ago, you were required to select a new Google phone number when you first created a Google Voice account. But starting this week, you can get Google Voice with a Google number or with your existing mobile phone number. However, you will not get some features (like call screening, call recording, and call blocking) if you choose to use Google Voice with your existing number.

If you want to try out Google Voice, you can request an invitation from Google or ask someone with a Google Voice account to invite you.  Also, you may check out the following videos before making the decision.


Overall, I found Google Voice to be potentially useful even though the text-to-speech conversion is imperfect.  It would be great if Google allows forwarding Google Voice calls to an international phone number.  This is my wishful thinking.

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About Steve Yuen

I am a Professor Emeritus of Instructional Technology and Design at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States.
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3 Responses to Google Voice

  1. I love Google Voice. There SMS feature truly got me into it. I can send free text messages to Bangladesh, India, and USA. It saves me some good money on my texting program from Verizon Wireless because I can utilize that to text. I think Google always does a nice job of giving customers what they require and need. I have found in the future they are incorporating Voice with the Android. Plus they purchased a new VoIP company which they will mix with the other two to give some outstanding features. I need to get me a Androind now haha.

  2. davidsmora says:

    Wow!…that was my first reaction to Google Voice. While I can’t access the service yet (I signed up for an invitation), Google Voice certainly looks like a neat and useful application. Particularly, I am interested to discover how I can set up the ring options for my phones. For example, if a work colleague needed to contact me while I was out of town, he could reach me via my Google phone number (Ideally, I would set it up so that work colleagues’ calls would ring both my work and cell phone). Additionally, I like that a user can receive voice mails in several different ways (including SMS message and e-mail). In my opinion, checking voice mails on a cell phone can be annoying (especially if you have to listen to the entire message before deleting it). However, it appears that Google Voice could ultimately eliminate the way we traditionally receive and check voice mails.

    One thing I’m not sure about with Google Voice is its ability to record and store phone calls online. While the idea may be beneficial in some situations (e.g. if you needed directions from a friend or you wanted to save a birthday wish from a family member), I have several concerns about the security of these potential sensitive recordings. It is no secret that hackers today can easily infiltrate the safest website (through back doors and other methods). While Google is genuinely a secure site, I would require strict security methods before I’d consider using this particular feature.

    In conclusion, I think Google has proven time and time again to be a pioneer in the field of online technology. While some features of Google Voice may be undesirable to me, I can easily rectify the situation by choosing not to implement them. Overall, I look forward to experimenting with this application when I finally receive an invite!

  3. Dane Conrad says:

    Like you, I had to wait awhile to get to try out Google Voice but finally got an invitation from a friend. I chose to setup a new number and just use the same four last digits (more to help me remember – only have to remember the different first three digits since it is the same area code.) I have experimented with several of its features and found it to work “as advertised.” The only thing that seems to still need some work is the voice recognition part of the audio-to-text feature for voicemail. I have noticed that it has gotten better but it still struggles with some heavy accents/dialects.

    Overall, though, the ability to have calls routed to different phones in a “follow-me” pattern, personalized greetings, individual ignore settings, and online voicemail enable individuals to enjoy some voice features usually reserved for high-end business/enterprise voice systems. I immediately thought of the opportunities that Google Voice would offer for a friend who is starting a small business venture and how his business could benefit from this free service.

    In education, teachers could now have personalized phone numbers that they could use for parents to contact them with without giving away personal cell phone numbers. In a way, they could leverage these calling and voice features without giving up personal privacy. The voicemail features also offer easy ways to document parent calls and responses. As David noted, though, this is a double-edged sword in that teachers would have to be very careful about confidential information being passed around in a medium as easy as e-mail.

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