Monday, 23 March 2009

Since my last post, in which I predicted the newly-minted Google Voice service would be a real positive impact in my world, my Grand Central account was enabled for the upgrade to the new application and I have migrated to the service.

Greg’s One-Line Review: It’s pretty darned awesome.

But you probably want a little more detail than that, so here we go…

First of all, I should explain that I’ve used Grand Central for the past couple years. Grand Central was the centralized phone service that Google acquired some time back, and it allowed one number to ring multiple phones, with centralized voice mail, call screening and recording, etc.

Google Voice builds upon Grand Central by adding a number of new features, including a couple killer apps in my book: Text/SMS messaging and conference calling. Other enhancements include automated transcription of voice messages and a unified inbox for all your text messages and voice mails.

I live in a very rural area, far from the nearest cell phone tower. Mobile service on my iPhone is – for all intents and purposes – nonexistent at my house. If I put the phone up on a certain window sill and avoid moving it or touching it, I can get marginal service and might be able to receive text messages. But sending messages and making/receiving phone calls is next to impossible.

By giving people my Google Voice number (which is 503-766-2258 by the way), my friends and colleagues can send me text message and call me at one number, regardless of where I am and what services are available at my location. When someone calls the number, Google Voice rings my cell and home phones at the same time. I can add other phone numbers to the ring list, as well – on the fly. So, if I’m working from an office number I can add it to the list, no problem. I can define time periods to each phone, so individual phones ring only when I want them to.

Google Voice SMS I rely on text messaging for a lot of things, and many of my friends, family members and colleagues also rely on it to reach me. Needless to say, with poor wireless phone service at home, there are times when I don’t receive and cannot send text messages. That pretty much defeats the purpose of using text messaging to reach people in real time. With Google Voice, text messages send to my number are delivered to my phone and to my Google Voice Inbox, meaning even if the phone service prevents delivery, I get the text messages in my web browser and can reply to them there. That’s huge for me – and I have already taken advantage of the ability to send and receive text messages from my computer.

There are a few things I hoped I’d find in Google Voice that aren’t there, at least not there yet. I’m hopeful they’ll be added in the future:

  • No support for sending text messages to groups – While you can create groups of contacts in the unified Google Voice inbox, you can only send messages to individual contacts. Since I lead a youth group at church, and we rely on text messaging to send out regular communications, I’d especially like to be able to send a single message to a group. As it is today, I can send a message to multiple contacts at once from my iPhone and just save the thread and keep replying to it, but when the group membership changes I have to start from scratch. It would be much easier and more reasonable to send to a single group managed in Google Voice.
  • I’m a Google Apps user and have an Apps email account under the same Google account as the one I am using for Google Voice. I’m not sure why, but behavior is not as expected when I click on the Mail link at the top of the page from Google Voice. Rather than taking me to my Google Apps email inbox, it takes me to a page where it asks me to sign up for a GMail account. All other Google applications seem to understand where to go when that link is clicked, but this one doesn’t yet. I’m sure this is just early/beta stuff that needs to be worked out, but it also means my contacts are not synchronized across my Mail and Voice inboxes, which is unfortunate (they’ve already enabled unified contacts sync with GMail account inboxes).
  • Support for syncing external contacts on the server side – While I was able to export my Outlook contacts, which are maintained on an Exchange server, as a CSV file and then import them without any issues into Google Voice, even better would be the ability to keep them up to date and in sync via the Google Voice service on the back end, maybe using ActiveSync or something similar. I’ll have to look for contact syncing software instead, since managing the sync effort by hand won’t really work for me.

All in all, Google Voice is a great app that’s already changing my ability to communicate. People in rural areas with marginal mobile service could really benefit from Google’s new offering. I’m looking forward to seeing what they deliver next!

Add/Read: Comments [7]
Mobile | Tech
Monday, 23 March 2009 12:03:17 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Monday, 23 March 2009 15:26:55 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
I can't wait to try out GoogleVoice! I was never a GrandCentral user but now I wonder why not.

So how much does it cost to get the phone number through GoogleVoice? Same as it was with GrandCentral?
Monday, 23 March 2009 15:28:55 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
@Jeff - Best price point ever: Free!
Tuesday, 24 March 2009 09:28:47 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Hey Greg,

I'm a longtime GrandCentral user as well. Can you let me know if Google Voice forces you to use your Google Account e-mail address for notifications, or can you configure separate addresses? I don't really want it to notify my GMail account, since it's not my primary address.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009 09:38:54 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)

I was able to add a email address to my google account (associated email address), and after doing so it shows up as an email address to send my voice mails to. I have not tested actual sending of voice mail yet, but will try to do so in the near future. No reason to believe it would not work since it let me set up the address and it delivered an email to the MSN account when I set it up.
Tuesday, 24 March 2009 13:54:58 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
There are a lot of google services that don't play nice with google apps accounts... Maps, iGoogle, are a couple. I have an android phone and although I can use my google apps email account, I have to give an alternate gmail account for using the Marketplace.

I have mitgated it somewhat by having my associated email address on my gmail account be my google apps account and the gmail address just forwards to my google apps, but its still a bit of a hassle.
Saturday, 11 July 2009 06:42:32 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
There is a contact and calendar sync program for Outlook on your PC and also for Blackberry. That may help.

I was also able to figure out the calling url for my keyboard scripting program, AutoHotKey:

You must be logged in for this to work.

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Wednesday, 29 July 2009 07:01:54 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Hi Greg,
To send text messages to groups using your google voice number , try using contactexter (, you can select some or all contacts, or get contacts by group..
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