Last week was a big week in the world of phone services. The Apple faithful got their hands on the iPhone 4. New Droid phones were announced. And Google Voice announced that anyone can sign up for its free service.
What, you don’t know about Google Voice? That’s probably because it has only been open to people who get invited to use it. You had to know someone who knew someone who invited them.
Not anymore. No one has to wait for an invitation to use this service which can help you organize your telephone use.
How does it do that? Well, at the heart of it is the free number you can create and use to make free calls in the United States. And cheap international calls. But sorry, for now you have to be in the United States to use it – or at least have a United States number.
Once you register and get your GV number, you can use this Google Voice tips:
Never miss a call
This is for those of you who have multiple phone numbers – work, home “landline” and mobile, for example. By creating a GV number, you can set it so every call to it can ring every real phone you have.
That means you can’t escape any callers. As if the lines between work and home aren’t blurred already.
Relax. This only works if someone calls the GV number. If you work for the kind of boss who wants you to give out that GV number, you still have a pretty good call screening function.
Duck calls you don’t want
When voicemail kicks in, you have the ability to listen to the caller’s message. Yes, this is like the days when you owned a machine in your home that took the calls and let you listen as they were recorded.
And of course you have the option of answering if the caller says something that persuades you that the call is worth your time.
Block the callers you really don’t want
If you’re really determined to avoid a caller, you can block them. Really block them. The blocked callers hear a call disconnection message when they call again.
Create a free business phone line
I only have one phone. Period. All of my calls are made and received on my cell phone.
Now I can use the GV number as my business number rather than my cell phone number. That phone screening feature is handy for avoiding the calls that I don’t want to invade my personal time.
Plus, Google’s number selection tool is pretty cool if you’re trying to spell something out. Enter your target word and the tool will try to get you the right number. It may take a lot of trial and error depending on how picky you are about your number…especially now that the service has opened up to anyone.
If you have a Blackberry or phone running Google’s Android operating system. You can use the mobile version of the web page on the iPhone. That puts all these features on your cell phone. Which, in effect, gives you two lines on one device.
Manage your voicemail
Now you don’t need an iPhone or to pay extra to Verizon to get visual voicemail. GV will create a transcript of the voicemail message and file it in a directory that you can read.
You can clearly see everyone who has called at once instead of listening to every message and trying to remember if you want to press 7 or 9. GV allows you to review everything in a web browser. It’s a work of art.
Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the transcript. It has its hilarious moments. But Google is working on improving it, and it’s free. Plus, each transcript includes a link to the audio. So you can hear what the caller actually said.
The main reason I’m willing to forgive the transcription quality is that I can have that text sent to me via SMS and/or e-mail. It’s quicker to read one of those than to log onto a voicemail system to learn who called.
Text for free
Speaking of texting, all texts to and from your GV number are free. No limits. This is one of the best Google Voice tricks.
GV has a browser interface that will reduce the strain on your thumbs. It lets you use a real keyboard to send SMS. The browser tool also lets you send a text to more than one recipient.
If that isn’t convenient enough, you can have texts forwarded to your e-mail. Then respond to the texts from your e-mail app.
Offer free calls from your Web page
You can install a widget on your Web page or blog that allows people to call your GV number free. It’s not VoIP though. Here’s what happens:
- Caller clicks on “Call Me” button.
- Caller enters name and phone number to call from.
- Caller clicks connect.
- That phone with the entered number gets a call from the 650 (Mountainview, Calif.) area code.
- When the caller answers, your GV number rings.
- You are connected to the caller looking at your web page.
OK, it’s a little cumbersome. But it gives people a free way to call you without you paying for a 1-800 number.
This is a key feature for writers or anyone doing interviews. When you receive a call on your GV number, you can have it recorded by pressing the number 4 on your phone. Pressing 4 again will turn it off. For privacy and legal reasons, there will be a message warning that the call is being recorded. Check with your state laws. Google will save the audio for you.
Now this is where there is a lot of room for improvement. First, you can only record incoming calls. You can’t do this for calls you make, which can be limiting. If I call a source and they pick up, I can’t record the call. While I’m sure this isn’t the intent, I’m guessing I’ll have to call when I know they are busy.
Second, there isn’t a transcript of the recording. Less than perfect or not, I would love to have all this transcribed for me. It would be a place to start – right now ti’s simply not an option.
Would I recommend Google Voice? For the right user, the voicemail management and transcription tools of Google Voice are worth the time by itself. Considering you’re still getting the service free, it’s not too shabby. In fact, all the features listed are pretty good considering the price tag. All in all, Google Voice is worth a look – and a listen.
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