Many of us have been eagerly anticipating Google Voice to open their doors for months. According to the Official Google Blog, invites are on their way this morning. Invitations are being sent out on a first come first serve platter similar to how gmail was handled years back. Get in line here.
How is Google going to help us manage our phone contacts, and should we use it?
Voicemail Transcription - I'll start with my favorite anticipated feature. Google's answer to Apple's visual voicemail. They up the ante and transcribe your voicemails into text for you and provide them online, and forward them via email or SMS. No longer is it required we login to our phones and punch in our secret code to listen to the voicemail only to jot the notes down on a notepad. Google eliminates this step and I am really excited about this. How well will it work?
Integration with existing phones - It will work with all of your existing phones. Tell Google Voice about your office number, cell number, and home number. It can then intelligently route calls or text messages based on your rules any contact to any or all of those numbers, read on..
Call Routing - We all have that client that calls us three times a day with pretty silly requests right? We sometimes feel a bit guilty letting it ring until it hits voicemail? No more! Google voice can be programmed to forward any contact wherever you want. Automatically route a specific contact to your assistant, direct to voicemail, or to a different phone. When the kids call it can ring all phones at once, or cycle through all phones, or push them directly to voicemail. New caller not in your address book, Google says they will take the callers name and announce them to you prior to you picking up the call (it's still ringing on their end), and give you the choice of what to do with them prior to picking up the call.
Record Calls - With a touch of a button you can start recording a call for playback later. Highly useful when driving (wait, we don't talk on the phone when we're driving do we?) and don't want to also be taking notes. Click the record button and access the call any time.
Google has short videos and demonstrations of all these features (and oogles more) at the Google Voice website.
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Second thoughts - Is it worth it?
Ads - Google provides so much for "free" including search, email, etc. Phone service is just another one of their free items. That's great, but they have to make their billions somehow. There will be ads! In typical google tradition, probably few at first, but count on lots of ads in the future. I'll admit though, google has been pretty good at being fairly unobtrusive with ads, so this may not be a huge issue.
New Phone Number - Google Voice claims they will support LNP (porting your existing numbers) in the future; however, right now they don't. This means a new phone number is in your future if you want to use Google Voice features. It doesn't cost anything from Google; however, it means getting your new number to all your clients.
Lock In / Lock Out - Once Google has you, they have you. Especially if you use one of their numbers. Nobody has experienced this yet, but often moving away from a phone provider is far more difficult than moving to them. There are laws which protect phone numbers you LNP into Google when they support that and that should allow you to move them off Google if you choose; however, there's no such stated requirement for numbers Google provides that I am aware of. Additionally, if you do something that Google doesn't like they can, if they wish, immediately terminate the service causing an instant loss of the phone number.
Trust in Google - With Google now transcribing voicemails into text, and recording calls in their worldly connected data centers it opens up the possibility of that data being hacked or obtained by other sources. What would happen if your entire contact list, your last years worth of voicemails and SMSs all became public? While this is unlikely, as Google runs a pretty tight ship; it is a possibility, and you can be certain there are thousands of hackers attempting to gain access daily. Will they ever succeed?
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What's the harm?
All said, I'm going to try it out as soon as I get my invite. I'll take their freebie number and try it out with a few friends or family and see how it goes before passing final judgement. All in all, I'm pretty excited. Mostly about the transcribed voicemail. If that works, it will save me and our office a lot of time.
p.s. If anybody has received their invite yet, I want to hear about it. Please comment.
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