So it is probably common knowledge now that Google has unveiled the Google Voice service which is pretty groovy. I didn’t jump on the boat when most people did. I heard some buzz about it, but didn’t really know what it was and dismissed it as something that was probably related to Google Talk. After I understood the concept of getting a number for all your phones and some interesting features, all for free, I thought I might as well see what it was all about.

The invite process was a lot less hassle then I’d guess most thought it was. I knew some people that signed up for an invite years ago when the service was still called GrandCentral. These people that requested invites years ago were just receiving them now which suggested the invite system was really backed up. I took my chances and put in for an invite. About five days later, I received an email telling me to pick up my new account. This part is easy enough. You go through the steps, the best being picking your number. Thankfully, you can search them using letters as well as numbers, so I could throw in a significant phrase and hope that it would spit back a local number. After maybe a half hour of debating, I settled on a number and was greeted by the Google Voice dashboard.

The dashboard, as you can see in the low resolution picture above, is almost a complete clone of the Gmail dashboard. This was great news for me as I am very familiar with using Gmail, and the Google Voice dashboard behaves in the same way considering placement of settings, inbox, etc. Basically, if you have used just about any email service, you should be in good shape. From here, I edited my settings, and toyed with some of the features.

I first decided that I just wanted to link the number to my cell phone, and ignore the options for house phone and work phone. I then went through the settings one by one. I added my voicemail message, as I am mainly going to use the number for that. I skipped the recording of my name as I don’t need that quite yet. I also set up notifications to use in conjunction with the voicemail. Whenever I get a voicemail, I get emailed and my cellphone receives a text message. So now, I have the ability to know if I have a message whether or not I have internet access.

Google Voice also has many privacy features. There is a call screening option that asks callers to identify themselves. Google will also provide a variety of options for when someone calls your number. You can choose to pick up the call, let it go right to voicemail, listen in on the voicemail that is being left, and even record the entirety of the call. There is also the ability to block numbers, and even allow different phones to ring depending on who calls.

Where I believe Google Voice really shines is how it handles the voicemail online. I already mentioned receiving notifications, but Google Voice goes far beyond that. For one, you can listen to the voicemail online, so just fire up your browser and point it to your account to hear what people have left. Google Voice will also automatically transcribe the voicemail, and even send it to you via email/sms if you desire. I also must add that there is a “Do Not Disturb” option which I use that will just connect a caller to voicemail without ringing any phone, so you never get annoyed with calls when you don’t want them.

In all, I can say that Google Voice is an interesting little Google project and I am interested in how they might improve upon it. I’m also interested in how people might use this in unexpected ways, considering how popular voip is these days. There are features like conference calling and free U.S. based calls which I am sure people canĀ  find interesting uses for. If you want to try calling me, feel free to check out the widget to the right of the screen.