Followup and Detailed Review of Google Voice

Services for Real Estate Pros with Rentec Direct Property Management Software

google voiceI posted a few weeks ago Google Voice Opens the Flood Gates Today which generated a lot of discussion.  I've been asked both online and offline about what I thought about it now that I've had a chance to use it.  So here it is.

First thing, although I signed up for Google Voice a very very long time ago, it still took weeks to get my invite, so this indeed is a fresh opinion because I've been using it now for about a week.

Here's what I like about Google Voice and they do well (The Good)

1. Simplicity - There's a lot to be said today for building an uncomplicated system.  So many web and software app designers are out there to cram every last feature into an application so it caters to everyone, and equally confuses everyone or requires training.  Not the case with Voice.  The interface is extremely clean and shows only what is necessary and nothing else.  I really like this.  The interface is similar to Gmail in many ways, only even cleaner.

Going further on the simplicity topic.  Setting up Google Voice took all of about 10 minutes.  I took my time, and could have easily done it in 5.  You pick a number from their list of available numbers, add your other phone numbers (cell, home, work, etc).  It's easy to add numbers later and the call routing is very (almost too) easy to tell it which phone to ring when.

2. Transcription & Call Routing - It only stands to reason that computers are capable these days of reading voices and converting them to text.  While others have done this before (youmail, etc), Google makes the process seamless and perhaps most important FREE.  While the transcription quality could use some work (read more on this later), Voice will do some really nice things with the transcribed message.  Namely  they will email it once it's transcribed and/or SMS it to my cell phone.

This opens up a whole new idea to me.  It's not advertised as an option by Google, but I've found it very useful.  My personal cell gets way too many calls, and most of the time I have to let them go to voicemail.  It's always been a chore to call in, get my voicemails, write them down, and call them back.  I certainly am not (at this time anyways) going to give everyone a new number to reach me at.  What I've done is told my cell phone to forward unanswered calls to my Google Voice number.  As a result my cell never receives voicemails any more (YAY!).  Voice takes the call, transcribes it, and SMSs me the message.  Reading the message in an email or SMS tends to take me just a few seconds, and also lets me know how important the message is without the time consuming process of calling in and listening to all the messages.  I absolutely love the time savings.

3. Call Recording - I actually haven't used this feature, but I assume it works as advertised and it looks very simple to use.  Click a button and the call gets recorded for future reference.  I guess my only word of caution here is some states legally require both sides be aware that the call is being recorded, so use with care.

google callme4. Call Widgets - Hidden in the Settings of Google Voice is a little feature called 'Call Widget'.  It's a simple click-me icon that can go on your website that says "Call Me".  Google then calls the person first, then calls any phone I specify and connects the two calls.  Google provides the long distance at no cost both ways.  What an absolutely cool feature, that I haven't yet tried but am excited to.


5. Free Calling - Most people take this for granted these days with cell plans, etc; however my Google Voice account lets me call anywhere in the country for free.  Doesn't cost a single penny.  Even Skype would charge 2c/minute and they used to be the cheapest solution.  I think Google is paying for this with reciprical compensation from the phone companies, and I applaud them for providing these connections anywhere in the US for free.

Here's what I don't like (The Bad)

1. Transcription - I have a love/hate relationship with the transcription.  If I call in and speak very clearly it's darn near 100% accurate.  However, it seems I don't leave myself very many voicemails, go figure.  The typical caller speaks quickly and in their own inflections, which aren't necessarily completely understood by Voice.  I'm going to give their transcription a C- for effectiveness.  Even so, generally even when I get a transcribed voicemail that's totally wrong, I can often still make-out the topic and get a good idea if it's an important message or not.  Here's an example of my test call, speaking clearly it only got one word wrong.  However, clickin the Play button within Voice is simpler than pretty much any voicemail system *ever*, so it's easy to listen to messages that don't transcribe well.

voicemail transcription

I do like how Google highlights the words it's more certain about, and when playing the message it underlines the word it's on.

2. Only one phone number - Google must realize people are going to use this service not only for their personal but for their business stuff as well.  As such, I would really like to have a single Voice account, with multiple inbound numbers, one for each business and one for personal and be able to sort and route accordingly.  The only way around this I see is to setup two separate Voice accounts with 2 separate numbers.  It's somewhat complicated to manage 2 separate accounts though.  I certainly would be willing to pay for the extra numbers for this added convenience.

Google keeps track of the phone numbers tied to each account.  I can't tie my cell phone into both accounts as Google will spew an error (phone already in use on another account).  Therefore I'm restricted to receive my voicemails as SMS on my cell from one or the other.  This is a silly limitation IMHO.

3. Privacy - Google has a pretty solid privacy policy.  I bet, right behind Microsoft, they've spent more money on making their privacy policy solid than about anyone else.  Even still, Google is amassing an unthinkable amount of data.  They possess and index billions of emails, searches, and surfing habits.  Now add in that they will be storing transcribed voicemails, which (while they say they aren't just yet) could easily be indexed.  It's somewhat scary to know that one single company possesses most of the world's information, and really could do anything they want with it.

Finally.. The Ugly (or not)

Some might ask why Google continues building interfaces with so little graphical flare.  Some say their interfaces are "Ugly".  I'm in total disagreement here.  The lack of graphics make the page load fast, not use much memory on my computer, and make it possible to navigate on a mobile device.  I'm going to throw out a big BRAVO for Google on keeping the interface clean and simple.  Thank you Google.


So my big question for Google.  They make 98%+ of their billions on advertising.  I'm not seeing any advertising here in my Google Voice mailbox, anywhere.  It would be really nice to know how Google plans to make money off this product.  I'm sure it won't be free, useful, and ad-free forever.

Overall, I'm going to give the entire Google Voice experience a C+.  If they allow multiple phone numbers, and improve on the transcription it could easily be an A, but those are big ticket items for me.  I'm going to continue using it, and even be purchasing an Android phone here really soon (HTC Hero I think), which has a Google Voice application for true visual voicemail far better than Apple/AT&T's attempt.

Finally, I wrote my review purposely before reading anybody elses.  Here's some links to what some other AR members think about Google Voice:

I JUST got Google voice (I feel like I hit the lottery!!) NOW WHAT????

Google Voice for Real Estate Pros - So Far, So Good

OMG I got my Google Invite Finally!

--- about the author ---

Nathan is a member of Rentec Direct who provides property management software, tenant ach payment processing, and Rentec credit reports

Comments (38)

Julia Odom
Select Realty Professionals - Chattanooga, TN
Chattanooga Homes for Sale

If you have your cell forwarded to GV, and GV forwarded to your cell, seems like you would have an issue with a caller getting into a loop going back and forth. What kind of settings do you have to implement to keep this from happening? Or am I overthinking this?

Aug 01, 2009 01:44 AM
Nathan M
Rentec Direct Property Management Software - Grants Pass, OR
President (Rentec Direct)

@ Julia,

For my personal cell I'm using Google Voice simply for voicemail, and that's it.  So I just turn on the do not disturb feature in the settings.

If you want to use it how I use it and still use the call routing features, you can just add your cell and then click 'advanced' settings and tell it to never call it.

Aug 01, 2009 02:32 AM
Carol Hanson Sheehy
Prudential Florida Realty - Naples, FL

Great analysis!  Well Done!

Aug 01, 2009 03:19 AM
Michael Polk
Polk Properties - Los Angeles, CA
The Right Choice
You can tell google voice where to send each call based on who is calling. Unknown callers can go straight to voice mail. After you know the number you can manage that caller accordingly. I have been using this since it was called Grand Central.
Aug 01, 2009 05:00 AM
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

I have it, but do not find it that useful.  I did a post on it a while back.  If it was combined with something like Skype that would be cool, and I may do that.

Aug 01, 2009 09:11 AM
Revats Real EstateVirtual Assistance & Technology Services - Raleigh, NC

Great review! I also got the invite to google voice and was somewhat dissapointed with it. I had not thought about routing my unanswered calls to it for transcription. Brilliant!! I think I will try that. Thanks for the suggestions!

The one thing I am likiing it for is the web-based text message option. It allows my teenagers (who apparantly can text better than call) to contact me via text while I am at my computer. And I don't have to bother texting them back on my phone...I can actually type it!


Aug 01, 2009 09:48 AM
Lora "Leah" Stern 914-772-4528
Coldwell Banker, 170 N Main Street, New City NY 10956 - New City, NY
Real Estate Salesperson

Nathan, thanks for the review and the tips.  I got my invite and signed in, but as yet have not used it much.  Letting google voice know where to send each call is a great feature, but time consuming to set up.

Aug 01, 2009 04:32 PM
Tammy Vertrees
Murrieta, CA
Real Estate Consultant

I got my number a few weeks ago and really like what it offers.  So far it's working really well for me.  I can take the call on my cell, home phone or office phone.

Aug 01, 2009 04:44 PM
Lyn Sims
Schaumburg, IL
Real Estate Broker Retired

Wow TLW has a good point, your messages getting indexed? Too much big brother action for me there! Anyway, glad you gave it a try and I was wondering how the transcription success was.  I used to use some of these features and found them frustrating because the transcription process was so bad! I haven't decided if I'll give it a whirl or not.  Thanks for the info and congrats on the newsletter post.

Aug 03, 2009 02:16 AM
Nathan M
Rentec Direct Property Management Software - Grants Pass, OR
President (Rentec Direct)

@ Lyn,

Since the voicemails are searchable it stands to reason they are indexed.  I'm sure Google would claim vividly that the indexes are private.  If google ever chose to "be evil" with this data, they could do some serious damange though no doubt.

On the transcription, I'd give it a C for quality.

Aug 03, 2009 03:06 AM
Rebecca Levinson, Real Estate Marketing and Online Advertising Consultant
Real Skillz-Clear Marketing for Your Real Estate Vision - Lake Geneva, WI

Nathan- Thank you for your detailed and candid review of Google Voice.


Aug 03, 2009 03:41 AM
Joeann Fossland
Advantage Solutions Group - Tucson, AZ
Master Certified Coach to Motivated Agents

Thanks! I've got my invite and now you have inspired me to go ahead and jump in. Thanks!

Aug 06, 2009 02:32 PM
Rich Cederberg
eXp Realty - Albuquerque, NM
eXp Realty Agent Albuquerque

Thanks, I hadn't even heard of it until I read your blog. I have signed up and I am getting started. The voicemail to email idea is awesome.

One thing that disappointed me was the choice of phone numbers. I wanted a catchy phone number, Anything with homes or house were not available. Do you know- are they selling vanity numbers?

Aug 12, 2009 05:33 PM
Joshua Dorkin - Denver, CO

The problem with the Google Voice Free Calling is that it is not always free!

I've used it to make calls to most of the country, yet it seems that I'm told that calls to random areas within the USA will cost me $0.0x cents a minute.  I simply hang up and call directly from my FREE VOIP pone. 

I wish I knew more information about which calls cost money and which are free, but Google voice is certainly not 100% free within the USA - at least for me it isn't.

Sep 01, 2009 09:37 AM
Nathan M
Rentec Direct Property Management Software - Grants Pass, OR
President (Rentec Direct)

Odd indeed.  I haven't experienced that with google voice yet.  So far every call has been free.

Sep 01, 2009 10:36 AM
Sandra Scott
DPR Realty - Payson, AZ
REALTOR of Choice! Payson, Pine & Strawberry, AZ

i'm going to try this out soon.  Sounds interesting.

Sep 06, 2009 01:24 PM
Johnny Morrow
Track The Lead - San Antonio, TX
Simple CRM Development

Google voice is something I have been looking into for a while.  Although I am not sure if it fits my current marketing strategy, I would like to free up my voicemail somewhat.  But having a third party having all my messges...  It is a bit scary.  Big Brother could get ahold of this.

Sep 17, 2009 04:17 PM
William Clavey
Simplified Life - Kenwood, CA

Its crazy the things you can do with a phone!

Jan 16, 2010 03:17 PM
Tom Davis
Harrington ERA,DE Homes For Sale, $$ Save $$ Buy Today ! - Dover, DE
FREE Delaware Homes Search!, $$ Save $$ - Find Homes! Delaware Realtor

I think I heard about this once before but didn't set it up... thanks for the reminder Nathan... I will be sure to go over and check it out and see.

Thanks so much for the reminder for me!

Tom Davis

Apr 26, 2010 04:11 PM
Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, KW Diversified - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

Hi Nathan, for some of your "bad" points of gv.

1 transcription, after laughing at the attempts at transcription, I click the play button and summarize the important points in the message in the area that they allow for us to type notes at the bottom of each message.

2. for multiple numbers I just set up another email address, and used my wife's cell phone number to get it started.

3. as far as privacy, I cant help you there, I think that google and big brother won that battle a long time ago, we will just have to accept that with the technology we have today, we may never have privacy again.


Oct 10, 2012 10:11 AM