There has been a lot of talk this past week about how Google Voice is set to open up to the public soon. At the moment it's only available to Grand Central users - Grand Central being the name they have been using for the last few years. Fortunately, I've had a Grand Central account since the very beginning, so I'm now testing out the new Google Voice system. Here's a screenshot of the homepage / inbox: when you first join:
As you can see, this layout is very similar to GMail. You've got an Inbox, Starred, Spam, Trash and some other items specific to Google Voice like Voicemail, SMS, Recorded, Placed, Received and Missed.
The first thing I wanted to do was check out the transcript feature for voicemails, so I called my Google Voice number to leave a voicemail. This is what I said:
And here is what Google delivered to my Inbox:
Google also delivered a transcript of the message to my email Inbox:
Obviously, this is not a perfect transcript, but I have to say that it is still pretty accurate. I was disappointed however that Google didn't deliver a .wav file of the message like Vonage does.
Clicking on the "SMS" button in the top left will allow you to quickly send an SMS text message:
This message came through on my phone (BlackBerry) very quickly, but what I liked most was that it appeared to have come directly from my Google Voice number and the message did not have any labels or advertising indicating that the message was from Google Voice. It looks just like it came from another mobile phone:
When I replied to the text message from my mobile phone Google alerted me that I had 1 new message. This was a link which I had to click to see the reply in my Inbox:
I never use SMS messages, but I do use the BlackBerry PIN service. So I'm a little disappointed to find that this is not an option on Google Voice. I frankly don't understand why people use SMS messages. There's a character limitation (or you break up into multiple messages and get charged multiple times). BlackBerry PIN is free with an internet connection and there is no limitation, or at least none that I have ever run into.
Google Voice is painfully slow for me right now. Pageloads are taking upwards of 15 seconds. However this problem may be on my end; We have a new fiber connection in the building that doesn't have a reverse DNS yet, and this seems to cause huge delays with sites that require reverse DNS lookup.
Google recently acquired 1 million new phone numbers from Level 3, so they are obviously expected a surge in numbers soon. I think Google Voice is a cool service, but it doesn't add anything that I don't already have. You will still need another phone to make outgoing calls and the SMS functionality for me is useless (though I might use SMS more if I can proxy it through email or BlackBerry PIN so I don't have to pay.)
Please share your thoughts on Google Voice!