Monday, March 23, 2009
Last week Google launched Google Voice, a new service that creates a single phone number and inbox for managing all of your phones, transcribing voicemail, and more. It's in closed beta, but we've got a sneak peek.
If you remember, Google Voice is the all-grown-up version of previously mentioned GrandCentral, which Google acquired last year. Google Voice boasts many of the same features as GrandCentral did, but it also adds a few cool features, too. If you're already a GrandCentral user, chances are you'll be joining Google Voice sometime soon (if you haven't already). Let's take a look.
The Inbox Aggregates Your Voicemail and Text Messages
As you can see in the picture above, all SMS and voicemail messages all come to Google Voice through the inbox. You can selectively filter calls to view voicemail only, SMS only, calls placed, received, or missed.
Voicemail Transcription is Fast and Searchable
My test calls to Google Voice were very quickly transcribed (we're talking within two minutes), and the results were... not bad. One would only guess that transcription will be improved over time, but it's already been decent in my tests. You should expect some gibberish to start out, though. Google indicates the certainty of the transcription by the greyscale text; the darker the text, the more sure Google is.
The coolest part about voicemail transcription is that it's searchable, allowing you to dig up a voicemail in Google Voice the same way you can find an old email in Gmail. In fact, if you tell Google Voice to send you an email when you get new voicemail, the transcription is included, meaning that your voicemail actually will be searchable from Gmail.
Place Calls and Send SMS from Google Voice
You can place any call or send a text message to any contact quickly and easily with Google Voice's quick Call and SMS buttons. At first blush placing a call from Google Voice may seem like more trouble than it's worth, but if you think about it, the contact autocompletion makes placing a call extremely fast.
Integration with Google Contacts
If you're using Google Contacts in Gmail, your effort will pay off bigtime. Not only does Google Voice plug into the same contacts, but every box in Google Voice sports contact autocompletion—from the search box to the SMS or Call To: fields.
Group Settings Send Specific Calls to Specific Phones
One of Google Voice's coolest features is the ability to send phone calls and text messages to more than one phone based on rules that you set up. For example, you can set all calls from your boss or co-workers to only reach your work phone, or have calls from your significant other ring every phone so you're always reachable.