For the last few weeks, U.S. fans of the search engine giant, Google, have been trying out its VoIP telephone service, Google Voice. Over a million people have signed up for this free service, which joins a cornucopia of Google goodies. With the wide range of communication features offered through Google’s Gmail interface, sorting them out get a little confusing, especially for the non- tech savvy. Basically, you just need to look at what new capabilities Google Voice offers, and decide if they can help you.
The newly released Google Voice follows Google Talk, a service that enables both text and chat between logged in Gmail users, via video and voice plug-in. Google Talk features include:
- Instant Messages
- Status Updates
- File Transfer
- Free Domestic and International PC-to-PC calls
- Audio conferencing
- Gmail Integration
Google Voice allows users to place phone calls from within the Gmail interface. For Google Talk users, it does no t require any additional downloads; others will need to download Google’s video and voice plug-in. When signing up for the service, users have the option to establish a Google Voice Number or use the service with an existing number. Either way is free and Google has a comparison page to help you decide which way to go. Google Voice does not require calls to be received on a PC, and all calls to numbers in the U.S. and Canada are free.
A quick look at Google Voice calling features includes:
- Voicemail Transcription – converts voice mail messages to text
- One Central Number – home, business, and mobile all ring in one place
- Multiple Greeting Options – set customized greetings for specific callers or groups
- International Calls – low rates for significant savings over phone company service
- SMS Text to Email – unlimited no charge texting
- Share Voice Mail -“ share voice mail messages via email
- Block Callers – avoid unwanted calls before they ring
- Call Scanning with Option to Listen In and Join Call – screen messages and join the calls as desired
- Mobile App – use Google Voice on your smart phone
- Conference Calling – talk to multiple people on one call via PC or phone line
For more details on features, check out these Google Voice videos.
A current drawback to Google Voice is that it lacks the option for users to port existing numbers into Google Voice, so users must start with an entirely new number to enjoy all features. Also problematic is the current unreliability of the voice mail transcription feature. However, the basic Google Voice service is free, so the imperfections can be overlooked. Also, it is still evolving, so service is likely to improve and expand. It is important to note that Google Voice is not intended to replace traditional telephone phone service, but to integrate them with the easy to use Google interface.
For more information on a variety of Google Voice topics can be found at the Google Voice Blog.