Well, not exactly a glance. I’ve had it a few weeks now and think it’s great.
When I got my invited it was, of course, almost midnight and I was literally about to sign off. I actually set up a temporary filter on my GMail account to forward emails that contain “Google Voice” from Google to my cell phone. This way no matter where I was, I’d know instantly when I got accepted and would make haste to get to a computer. Well luckily, I was about 10 feet away from one when my cell phone went off. It goes without saying that I did stay up all night playing with it and getting it all set up and customized.
Actually, the first hour I was debating between different phone numbers, As I displayed earlier, you can pick your own number as long as the number is within the block of the million-or-so numbers Google bought from Level3. You can also search for either a combination of numbers or a combination of letters. I was trying different things to find a REALLY epic vanity phone number. I narrowed it down to three numbers.. to be honest, at this point I can’t remember what the other two were. I think one had JFK-NIPP in it. The one i decided on was mostly chosen because it’s “more local” area-code wise than the other two candidates. The one I landed on combined my first name (shortened) and an abbreviation of my last name. It works great.
Here’s an issue I have though that’s not at all GV’s fault. I’m trying to get my old contacts to call me at my new number. Some of them have been good at adopting it, but others like my parents for some reason don’t get the idea that the new number is my “main number.” For some reason, it’s a hard concept for them to grasp, as they call and I pick up, expecting to hear “Do you want to accept a call from Mom?” and i just hear silence and I go “Hello..?” and it’s my mom. Ugh.
You can choose to have incoming GV calls display as either the caller’s number (this is good for things like fave five) or as YOUR google voice number. Several have recommended adding your GV number as a fave five contact, and switching the connection number as the GV number, that way all calls through GV don’t consume minutes. But I have a feeling that this violates some T-Mobile rule.
I think the coolest feature is the voicemail transcription. If someone calls me and I don’t answer, they can leave a voicemail. Within minutes (depending on length of voicemail, etc) I get a text message that has the text version of the person’s voice. At this point, it’s still a little off on the translating, but remember that GMail’s spam protection was nothing special when it first came out — this is because it’s a community learning that relies on spam reporting and such. I’m not sure how it’s going to work with the voicemail transcription, but I have a feeling that it is also “learning.” 90% of the voicemails I’ve gotten I was able to get the gist of what was being said just by reading the text. Others I had to either listen to it on the dashboard or call in. Also, very rarely the scribe will give up completely and not even bother to try translating. This is usually if the person is speaking gibberish, extremely (unintelligibly) loudly or there’s a lot of loud background ambiance.
This feature is cool for many reasons. I can read text faster than I can login to my voicemail, go through all the prompts (You have 3 unread and 10 saved voice messages. First message saved on..) and then actually listen to the voicemail. It results in me being more efficient as I can get things done quickly. Also, let’s say I’m in a meeting and can’t listen to the voicemail, but I can quickly glance at my phone to see something like “I’m going to be like 5 minutes late. See you soon!” Or even more likely, let’s say I’m in an area where signal reception is bad. It’s good enough to occasionally have my phone collect/sync new text messages, but not maintain a phone call for more than 10 seconds. It’s very useful, and just flat out neat.
Also, caller grouping. I can set people in groups and apply settings to those groups. So I can add my parents and grand parents to “family” and have “family” only ring my personal phone (though, that’s all I have right now) and never my work phone. Also, I can set specific voicemail greetings for this group. So instead of my professional formal greeting, I can just give a short relaxed and casual one. I can also select a voicemail greeting for each specific person too.
One of the main features of Google voice is something I can not yet take advantage of. You can set up multiple phones to your Google Voice account. When someone calls your GV number, it will ring all the phones in your account until one of them answers (or a certain time passes). The logic behind this is that at any given time you’re very likely around at least one of your phones, let it be your work landline, your personal cell, your work cell, or personal landline. Unfortunately at this time, GV doesn’t support adding extensions to phones, so I cannot add my work desk phone to my GV account.
Text messaging is handled uniquely. You can text someone through the website dashboard. If they reply, it’ll forward that text to all of your SMS-enabled devices on your account and will appear online. However, the text will come from a 406 area code phone number. This is a little confusing, but I’ll try to explain it the best I can. Essentially, everyone on your contact list is assigned a number from the 406 area code.
The 406 area code number is an “alias.” This is done so that you can reply to texts from your cell phone and it will appear to them that you are texting from your GV number. This is because in reality, you are texting a number that google controls, so what happens is you text them, google receives it, sees it’s coming from a number on “this google voice account”, so “this alias being texted” for “this google voice account” is assigned to the real phone number 555-555-5555, sends a text to 555-555-5555. If you call the alias phone number from any device on your google voice account, it’ll call that person from your google voice number. This is the only “convenient way” to call someone directly from your (non-smartphone) cell phone via your GV account. If you are good with memorizing numbers, you can also call their real number by calling your GV number, pressing 2, then dialing your person. At this time, the only way to get a person’s alias phone number is for them to text you. It’s not displayed anywhere else.
Another cool feature is “Call Presentation.” If someone calls and they aren’t added as a contact on my GV account or they have never called before, they are asked to say their name. It will then ring me and ask me to accept a call from [their recording]. If they already called, I’ll hear their recording from the first time. If they are added to my GV contact list, I’ll hear a Text-To-Speech version of their written name. Okay, after their name is presented to me, I can either do one of three things, Accept, Send to voicemail, or Send to voice mail with ListenIn. With ListenIn, I can hear the person as they are recording their message (old answering machine style!) and optionally press * and start talking to them. It’s pretty cool.
There’s call recording too. However, you can only initiate call recording if the person calls you. Outgoing calls don’t work for recording. Probably for legal issues. When you start the recording, you’ll hear a nice lady saying “Call recording on!” and when you turn it off, you’ll hear “Call recording off.” You can listen to the recording on your Google Voice Dashboard.
If you have a smart phone (save for iPhone) you can get an application (most likely) for you device. This application will likely take control of your CallController and TextController so that it routes all your outgoing calls through GV. This way you can call any of your contacts directly through GV without dailing in, having their alias, or calling them through your GV Dashboard.
There are a few issues with GV that I have. The main one is that there is, at current, no support for MMS. If someone sends me a picture to my GV number, I’ll never know about it. And the sender will never know that their MMS message was never seen. I have a feeling that eventually Google will figure out a way to get this to work, but it’s understandable because we’re still in beta. However, if someone wants to send you a picture, they’d have to send it directly to your cell phone (or email). Giving out your “real” cell phone number would defeat much of the purpose of GV.
All in all, I think Google Voice is amazing. I love it and can’t wait until some of the wrinkles are ironed out. If you ever have a chance to join GV, take it! It’s wonderfuL!