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.