I have had a Google Voice account for ever, literally, my account was transferred over from when it was Grand Central. I never set it up because while it seemed like a cool idea, the tools weren’t quite up to snuff. So recently I looked at it again, and now their is a Blackberry application, so I figured that I would give it a try. (sorry, no iPhone app, the Draconian Herr Jobs has decided against it, too bad, so sad.)
Google voice is, in short, the coolest thing to happen to telephony since cheap cell phones. Its pretty basic, but super cool. Go to Google Voice and sign up for an account, its in beta, but you will prolly get an account within 3-5 days, if not, let me know and I will get you an invitation.
GV will give you a new phone number that you can use (hopefully) for the rest of your life, so choose wisely! :D When anyone calls this new number, GV will route the call per your settings. The default (which I use) is to route to my mobile and my home number, simultaneously. That means that when you call my GV number, both my home and cell ring at the same time, the call gets routed to the one that I answer. If I don’t answer, the caller can leave voicemail. GV then transcribes that voicemail and emails it to me. Stop. Read that last sentence again. IF I want, I can listen to the voicemail, but why bother?
As for SMS (aka “texting”), if someone texts my GV number, the text is forwarded to my cell phone, and if I reply, the sender sees my GV number as the sender; GV shields my actual number from the recipient. The thing is that I get pretty crappy cell coverage at home, so when I get a text, I just get on my computer and reply, and again, the recipient cant tell if it came from my computer or the cell.
When I make a call from my cell phone, it calls GV and GV routes the call for me and the person I am calling sees my GV number in the caller ID. Think about that for a minute, that means that I can add the GV number to my “Fave 5” or “Friends and Family” list, then get the minimum phone plan. Now every call that I make is routed through GV so there are no per minute charges. If you call within North America, there are no charges from GV, but if you call outside of North America there are long distance charges which appear to be inline with other carriers.
When I am at home, I go to GV and hit “Call” I then type in the name of a Google contact and hit “Ok” (of course it uses Googles autocomplete/”Live Search”). GV then calls my home number, when I answer, GV calls the contact and connects us. No more getting a new home phone and having to type in the important phone numbers and updating it if they change, I just keep my GMail contacts up to date (GV uses the same ones), and of course I use GMail/Contacts on my cell phone as well, so now I have ONE master set of contacts that are shared across all services and devices.
GV also has all sorts of cool routing options “If my Mom calls, play this message”, “If a friend calls, play that message”, “if the caller is unknown to me, don’t bother putting the call through, just give them the curt message” etc. Pretty cool,
AND, all of this can be accessed/managed from your phone, OR your computer. Andy and I have been chatting lately over SMS and its pretty nice to be able to read/respond on my computer. Its really an interesting phenomenon, GV is blurring the lines of communications, in a good way. I almost told Andy that we need to settle on a communication medium because I wanted to be consistent; but then I realized, that would make everything more difficult, not less. Send me SMS, MMS, Email, Voicemail, BB Chat, various IM, it doesn't matter. They all go to my cell phone AND my computer where I can file/record/reply as required.