Google Voice — a personal Virtual Phone System

After waiting a couple days after applying, I received an eMail invitation for Google Voice. This service, formerly called GrandCentral before it was acquired by Google, allows you have a phone number which is independent of your actual phones. It allows you to create a phone number in an area code of your choice. Calls from this number are forwarded to any or all of your phone lines (home, work, or cell).

Domestic Long-Distance Calling

Using Google Voice, I’ll finally be able to ditch MCI long-distance service on my work landline. Calls within the U.S. and Canada are free. The way this works is that you enter the calling number from your list of contacts on the web site, and designate which phone (work, home, mobile) that you want to talk from. Google Voice will then ring your phone. Once you pick up you’ll immediately hear a dial-tone as it attempts to ring the called number.

International Calling

Calls from the U.S. to Germany landlines and Hong-Kong are 2 cents per minute. Some African countries (Gambia) are 33 cents per minute. Rates for to mobile numbers can be much higher; German calls are 18 cents when the recipient is a mobile phone.

Voice Mail

Google Voice includes a full-fledged voicemail service. There is a text to speech service which attempts to render messages into text, and then display them in an eMail-like list. I tried a similar service that was provided with a standard TrixBox installation.
The standard greeting isn’t anything like the graceful “Alison” provided with TrixBox and Asterisk installs; instead it something like, um, “yenta-in-a-hurry”. I’ll have to redo my own voice greeting shortly.

SMS Messaging

You can send SMS messages to mobile phones by typing the message into a web page. Great for those of us who don’t text.

Call Screening

You can screen all unknown callers (i.e those with out an entry in the contact list which include their caller ID), or you can screen blocked callers.

Notifications

Notifications of new voicemails can be sent to an eMail address, and/or mobile phone via text message.

Of course some of the usual things are also included, such as the ability to listen to voicemail from your phone, variable greeting by caller, the ability to forward voicemail. You can also record calls and store them online and create conference calls

So, Google Voice has definitely passed the Five Minute Test…. and it looks quite promising.

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