Google Voice: what all the talk's about

Can you hear call, text, reach-me-anywhere now?

Google this morning announced an overhaul for GrandCentral, the "one number to rule them all" telephone service it acquired in 2007.

Now called Google Voice, the service forwards calls to multiple phones, screens calls, transcribes voicemails, manages and routes text messages, offers free US and cheap international calls, and offers customizable call handling, greetings, and availability options.

The old-fashioned three-tone "this nunber has been disconnected" message is even at your fingertips for those really annoying callers.

And, since it's from Google, the whole thing's free.

The service is limited to Grand Central users for now (a group grandfathered in from when Google paid $50 million for the service two years ago) but will be made public in the coming weeks.

Here's a look at what's being said about the new Google Voice offerings:

Voicemail transcription

"This is huge. It means that you can search, sort, save, forward, copy and paste voice mail messages.... Companies like PhoneTag, Callwave and Spinvox already transcribe voice mail, complete with punctuation. They’re great, but they cost money. Google Voice is free." [David Pogue for the New York Times]

"The key feature of Google Voice is that it recognizes the words in a voicemail message left for you, and can then email the transcript to your inbox or deliver it to your phone via SMS--kind of like having a digital personal assistant managing your calls for you." [Kit Eaton for Fast Company]

Just one number

"You don't have to worry about which number to hand out to people, and if you're sitting with your cell phone next to you home or work phone, you can choose which to answer. If you have the "screen calls" option enabled, Google Voice will ask you if you want to accept the call or send the person to voice mail....

"In practice, virtualizing your profusion of real-world phone numbers with one that redirects is handy. You can set various preferences – for example, calls from your family members get a custom answering message; calls from your parents don't ring your work number; and calls from your spouse are answered directly when you pick up the phone rather than run through the Google Voice options such as answering the call, sending it to voice mail, or listening in on the voice mail." [Stephen Shankland for CNET]

Skype killer?

"Analysts are divided on how much of an impact Google Voice will have on the domestic and international calling business, though some believe that of all of the features, it's the ability to offer free internet calls that could be the game changer." [Dianne See Morrison for MoCoNews via the Washington Post]

"Google has a huge pool of existing users and a history of rolling out applications that are more stable and feature-rich than Skype. eBay will need to make some serious investments in developing Skype's functionality to compete with the Google juggernaut -- or face selling the service for pennies on the dollar." [Cyndy Aleo-Carreira for The Industry Standard]

Privacy? What privacy?

"The service will give Google enormous amounts of information about the intimate details of your everyday life, including recordings of your voice mail and possibly your phone calls. Combined with what Google already knows about you, it could mean your privacy is at an end." [Preston Gralla for Computerworld]

The last word

"Google Voice looks like a clear winner to us. It takes the best features of GrandCentral and adds a number of important and interesting new features like SMS messaging and voicemail transcriptions. Clearly this is one of the most important products that Google has released in the last couple of months...." [Frederic Lardinois for ReadWriteWeb]

"Still, users have to get over a big initial hurdle - getting all their friends to start using a new phone number instead of the old ones. Business cards are to be thrown out, new ones printed. Contact cards updated. Etc. There’s nothing Google can do to fix this problem." [Leen Rao for TechCrunch]

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