Making sense of Google Voice

As mentioned in a recent Tweet, I just got my Google Voice account and I love it. Unfortunately, getting one is by special invitation from the other evil empire, Google. So what is Google voice?

It is an answering machine on steroids. A prerequisite for using Google voice is that you must have a Gmail account. Another prerequisite is that you must have atleast one phone(Mobile, LAN line or a workphone).

To begin with, you get your own phone number from Google. This will be your primary phone number which you will hand off to your contacts.

Many Phones, One number

By logging into your Google account and customize your Google voice. Let us assume you have a mobile phone, a LAN line and a work phone. Hopefully, you have all your contacts in your Google/gmail account. For each of your contacts, you can now decide which of your three phones to ring when that particular contact tries to call you using your Google Voice number.

Changing to a new phone number is painless and trivial

If ever, any of your three numbers(LAN, mobile or work) should change, simply log into Google voice and change the respective entry to the new number. Google voice will forward an incoming call to the new number/phone as long as you hand out your Google voice number to all your contacts as your main phone.

Your voice mail as email

One killer feature of Google Voice is its ability to transcribe your messages into text. This means that when someone leaves a message for you on Google voice, it is transcribed as text and shows up in your Gmail mailbox like any email message.

I experimented with this feature leaving a few messages for myself. The transcription process works reasonably well. It even tries to make some educated guesses when it cannot understand some words I use.

Your voice mail online

In addition to the transcribed message, your message is also available as an audio file that is playable from an embedded media player on your Google voice web page.

Unlimited Space

You will never have a full message box again. Messages are saved in your gmail account. As there is no limit on the size you your email message box, there is none on the size of your voice message box as well.

Integrated Interface
You have a choice. You can either use the Google voice interface or the gmail interface. Your choice. Each is intuitive and bear a striking similarity to the other.

Contact me when I am overseas
When I travel, I can still continue to get Google voice messages. I could check them whenever I have Internet access.

Its free!
Isn't this enough reason to get a Google voice account?

Do I have to hand out a new number to all my contacts now?
Google admits that it is a pain to replace your existing number but for now, there seems to be little they can do about this problem for now. There is some good news on the horizon, though. Google plans to give Google Voice users the ability to use an existing phone number that belongs to them as their Google voice number.

Google has permeated yet another facet of my life.

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