If you are not into technology, please forgive this post. I’m a geek – so sometimes it has to come out.
I hate voice mail. I hate it at work. I hate it on my cell phone. And, I really hate it at home. Can’t get ahold of me – send text message or email, and your chances of hearing back are greatly increased.
Why do I hate it? Because i get cold called about everything under the fucking sun. Going through my voice mail at work or at home is a more annoying way of dealing with junk mail. It wastes my time. And, if it is that important, they will call back – or call another one of our numbers.
That all being said, I was fortunate enough to be invited to try out Google Voice. I got my invite a couple weeks ago. And, I like what I’ve seen so far.
Google Voice gives you a new single number to use. While that may seem annoying – changing numbers with friends and family – it is does serve a good purpose. Once you have the number, you can associate all of your other phone numbers with it. Currently, my number has my cell phone and home phone associated with it.
When someone calls your Google Voice number, the call is routed based on the rules you have setup. For example, from 8-5pm Monday thru Friday, my home phone won’t ever ring. Why? I’m not home usually anyway. So, it tries my cell phone or sends it to voice mail. Outside of those times, it will ring all locations when a call comes into that number.
You can also setup your contacts in groups and present them a different voice mail greeting as well as have different rules around how the call is handled. For the person placing the call, they are told that Google Voice is trying to reach the person they are calling. For me, the recipient of the call, I am told who it is (assuming that number is in my Contacts), then I am asked to either accept the call or send them voice mail or you can send it to voice mail but listen to the message as its being left. For those in your “family” group, for example, you can have Google Voice just immediately connect them to whichever phone number answers without an option to send them to voice mail.
Voice mail is not what it seems either. Voice mail is online. It’s like Gmail in how you access it and use it. You can listen to the audio file – or you can read the transcript. If so configured, you can have a transcript of your voice mail texted to your cell phone and/or sent to your email. For someone like me, that is brilliant!! In mere seconds, I can choose how to respond. Hell, I can even reply with a text message or an email if that contact has that sort of information associated with it. It’s almost “unified messaging”. I say almost because Google Voice is separate from Gmail. If they merge the two it will truly be unified.
If it is an unsolicited call, I can block the number from within the Google Voice window. A nice little feature for someone like me who has bad luck with phone numbers. If someone is running from debt collectors, it means I have their old number. Jealous, aren’t you? If that happens again, I can block those annoying debt collectors who don’t believe I am not Katie or Ezekio Were nor do I know who or where they are. (And yes, I’m using their real fucking names. Ten years of getting harassed by their debt collectors, I get to post their names on my blog. I think that’s fair, don’t you? I have a 5 minute voice mail recording because of those dumb asses because of the shit we’ve gotten. Yes, I’m bitter, but I digress.)
Another cool feature that I have found handy: the ability to send (free) text messages from within the Google Voice online application. (Those receiving the message have to pay for it just like today, but you don’t have to pay the outbound or inbound charge like on your cell phones.) When my phone died the other day and was having charging issues (let’s just say the iPhone doesn’t like its battery drained), I was able to send Garbanzo a text message letting him know why he couldn’t get ahold of me.
You can also make calls from within the Google Voice application. Just need a mike and an internet connection. I have not personally tried this method.
Overall, I’m really like this application so far. To accomplish this in the business world, you would have to implement a server application (or two or three) to this functionality, then learn how to code to handle call routing to the various numbers, etc. The fact Google is offering it for the home user is great. I can also see someone with a small business using this too. A way to create a business facing communication front without having to add separate phones and phone numbers. Good stuff.
I’m sure Google will continue to add features just like they did when they first launched Gmail, so it will be interesting to see it get better with time. I do plan on adding Garbanzo’s number to the mix – and starting to pass out the Google Voice number as our single number again. Between home phones, cell phones, and work phones, there are just too many numbers to keep track of and communicate to schools and such. I like a single number that will just handle that mess.
If you are interested in trying to get an invite, just go to www.google.com/voice and request one.