Last week I began using Google Voice. Since I wasn’t invited or using the beta version, I had to wait for the wide release in August. For those of you unfamiliar, Google Voice is a Voice Over Internet Technology (VOiP) and since it’s integration with GMail is giving Skype a run for it’s money. After using the service for a week, there are a few highlights and lowlights to mention for those considering the service. Before I get to all that, I will say overall — I’m a fan of Google Voice. It has a lot of features that make it worth the time it might take you to install and set up.
Voicemail Transcription: This is my favorite feature of Google Voice. When you receive a VM to your Google Voice number you can review a transcript of the voice mail message either via Gmail or your Google Voice inbox. Although the transcripts are not perfect, they typically give you the jest of the message.
Cell Phone Integration: Alongside the Gmail intergration (which is a highlight) the ability to have a single voicemail message is a nice highlight. Additionally, the ability to receive text messages for missed calls, you can also receive a text message of the voicemail transcript. Also, if you have your gmail synced with your phone you can view your VM transcript on your cell — another highpoint for sure. If you have the iphone 4 or Droid you can download the app that allows you to route calls from your Google Voice number to your cell phone. This means when you receive Google Voice phone calls you are using your data rather than cell phone minutes — ultimately reducing your minute usage.
Select a Local Number: If you want to do more than outgoing calls with Google Voice — which is a highlight — you can select a local number to receive inbound and outbound calls. I like the ability to select a number that makes sense to you and likely easy to remember. This feature is particularly useful if you are a freelancer or micro-business owner and want to have a daytime business phone. Also, if you want to reduce your cell phone usage this feature is one that can help.
Voicemail Greeting: Although it may not seem like a big highlight to note, I’m particularly fond of the ability to have a single voicemail greeting for both Google Voice and my cell phone. This means no matter which line someone calls, everyone receives the same message — which helps with consistency across media.
Text Messaging: One thing I particularly like is the ability to send text messages via my full keyboard. I’m not a fan of the touchscreen keyboard and can quickly text message using my full keyboard. This one of the key reasons I will continue using Google Voice even if I never make another phone call from it again.
Outbound Calls: I believe this rings true if you have a Google Voice number — but the lowlight is each time you make an outbound call, you have to answer an inbound call from Google Voice, then the outbound call is made. It’s really more of a mild hassle more than anything and a bit confusing until you realize what’s happening. Once you are aware, it’s easy to go with the flow.
Honestly – this is the only downside I can come up with at this point. What have been your experiences using Google Voice? If you’re not using — are you thinking about trying it out?