Eric Stewart: Running Off At The Mouth

Google Voice has gone public

by Eric Stewart on Jun.23, 2010, under Cell Phones & Providers, Networking, Technology

On a lark (and before I had learned that they had opened it to everyone that day), I signed up for Google Voice.  Google Voice offers several features, including:

  • The ability to ring multiple phones from one phone number
  • Transcription of your voice mail
  • Listen to/read your voice mail on the web

I really don’t have much interest at this time in ringing multiple lines from one number (maybe if I hit the lottery or make loads of money and am able to afford phones with multiple providers and become a professional blogger that tests all the technology out there, instead of just the stuff I have access to, and I end up with cell service from multiple providers).  However, the ability to have my voice mail automatically transcribed and available via the web intrigued me.

One option you have (for most providers, I think) is, instead of getting a “Google Voice” number, you can have Google Voice take over the voice mail of your (cellular only?) phone line.  This involves getting a phone call from Google and entering codes, all of which the setup of Google Voice will walk you through.  This is the route I went (though it is tempting, especially with an office in a basement, to have a number that would ring my office phone as well as my cell).

I’m still debating getting a Google Voice number because of this.  My main issue is having to get in touch with everyone to tell them that, while my cell phone number is still valid, they should use the Google Voice number instead.  It just seems silly: “Hey, use this other number that’s not really any more valid than the number you have been using, which still works.”

You’ll have to set up a new “I’m not available” message, and you check your voice mail from your phone by making a phone call to Google Voice’s service number, but other than that, it seems to work well.  Google Voice will send you a text message (which I found an appropriate custom sound for) when you have new voice mail.  This is, of course, different from the notification your phone normally gives you.

I don’t know how to “undo” this configuration yet, but it shouldn’t be too hard. This is undone by going into your Google Voice settings and telling it to “Deactivate Voicemail”.

This urge to try Google Voice came over me as I was reading a post comparing the Sprint Palm Pre to the HTC Evo 4G.  One of the things covered was the lack of a reliable Google Voice application for the Pre, and that the Evo (an Android device, Android being a phone OS that’s produced by Google) had access to a Google Voice app.

I haven’t played with the Google Voice web page via the Pre too much, and I’m not too sure about the configuration of the only Pre based app for Google Voice I’ve seen (available only via Preware; I might give it another go sometime today), and also I haven’t gotten enough voice mail to where it’s been an issue (I’m usually near enough to a computer to where I can play with Google Voice on Firefox).  However, a native(esque) app for any phone would be promising, and I plan on switching to an HTC Evo 4G before too long (of course, once I have it in my hands, you’ll see a posting on the site about it).

Let’s get a little more on topic: Transcription.  This is done automagically; I don’t think there’s someone at Google listening to all your voice mails (though, it’s not outside the realm of possibility, you know).  It’s not flawless, either, and they acknowledge it in an interesting way.  If, in the transcription, the system is fairly certain of the word it’s detected, it has it in black text.  If there’s some question as to the word or phrase, the text gets a bit lighter (gray).  This may of course be impacted by accents or speech impediments (and I wonder if I might have one now).

In addition, there are two other neat features (that admittedly I hadn’t researched when I originally wrote this article, and thought might not exist):

  • There is a “Preview” of your voice mail in the text message you get letting you know that you have voice mail
  • You can configure it so that you get a transcription copy of your voice mail as an email in your GMail inbox.

So that’s pretty much it: my 700 (or so, according to WordPress’ counter) word initial commentary on Google Voice.

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1 Comment for this entry

  • Eric

    Yo! I actually have obtained a Google Voice number. Here’s the additional notes:

    If you tell Google Voice one of the numbers the GV number rings is a cell phone, they’ll ask you to have your cell’s voice mail handled by GV as outlined above. The only real change is that to check your GV voice mail, you’ll call your GV number. Through the GV website you’ll be able to configure what numbers of yours:

    – Get access to your GV voice mail, and
    – Of those that do, which ones should be required to enter your access code.

    You can set up a schedule for certain phones; for example, my work phone only rings during my work hours, and doesn’t ring at all on weekends.

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