I finally received my invite from Google for the Google Voice service, and like a huge retreat coming down to the wire, it is getting me excited and frustrated all at the same time.
The exciting part revolves around the concept that you can have one local phone number that forwards to other numbers based on who is calling and will text message you a “preview” of the content of the voicemail that is left if no one answers.
I think that the texting feature is by far the most interesting. When I tested it, it did not do perfectly, but got the job done. I left the message: “Hi, this is a test message testing the text feature on the google voice service. I received back via text message, “hi this is a test message testing the text to make sure on the google voice servers.” Pretty good, and I didn’t have to click through and listen to find out what the person wanted.
The other great feature is the one that has gotten a bit frustrating in the initial setup. The basic idea is that you can set up several forwarding phone numbers (home, cell, office, your senior pastor’s direct line… whatever), and google will ring one or more of them depending on the assigned group of the person who is calling. Sounds easy, and it probably is if you have already been using google contacts as your primary address book.
If you are like me and have a gmail account but use something else as your primary address book, you will have some problems. First, if you have had a gmail account you will have a ton of contacts that have no name… just an e-mail address. These will be everything from amazon support to some random applicant for a job you corresponded with twice two years go. Second, if you choose to sync via an exported .csv or by checking the schnazzy box in Apple’s Address Book, you will have MANY duplicate contacts. The real problem with all of this is that the contacts area has no advanced search feature. You cant just find duplicates, or those people with just e-mail addresses. What you’ll have to end up doing is manually scrolling down the list and either adding the missing informtion, deleting them, or merging them. One word: hassle.
Once you’ve got the contacts all nice and clean setting up groups is easy and you are off to the races. Now the sixth grader who just got their first cell phone and has two numbers, yours and their mom’s, will go to voicemail 20 times a day and you’ll get 19 preview texts of “what’s up… just bored… call me” and no interruptions in the meeting with the senior pastor about getting the thousands of flecks of neon spray paint off the gym floor. On top of that, you can have it ring your home, office and cell all at the same time (not in succession like many forwarding services) when your baby is due any day now and save your wife the tracking down of her too busy youth pastor husband.
Another interesting feature is called ListenIn. It allows you to listen in on the message someone is leaving and jump in by pressing star as if you were screening calls on an answering machine.
This has tons more features including conference calling, recording phone calls, temporary forwarding, and much more. for an explanation of all their features you can click here to see their help page on the subject.
Overall, I think this is a great product, and if I have gotten an invite they are sure to open it up soon to the whole world. To request your invite, click here and fill out the form.