Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
When I first heard about Google Voice, I immediately submitted my email for an invite, and within a few weeks I received one. April first provided a review of Google Voice and offered 100 invites right here at MUO. Since then, Google continued to progress with Google Voice and add more features.
My initial excitement about Voice quickly faded when I learned that Google Voice will not let you port over your home number yet – although you can use your mobile number, but you’ll be limited to primarily only using the voicemail feature. As I’ve been waiting patiently for Google to offer home number porting (which Google’s help page promises is a feature that’s “coming soon”), I’ve noticed that more cool features keep getting added on to the service, so I thought it’s about time for a list of 5 cool things that you can do with Google Voice.
1. Integrate Google Voice for All Mobile Calls
Obviously, once you sign up with Google Voice, you’ll want to install the mobile app onto your phone. Google Voice offers integrated mobile apps for, including Android, Blackberry, iPhone and others. Once you install Voice on your phone, you can check your voicemail, send and receive calls, and check your current account balance (Internet and data plan needed for account connection).
Most importantly, once you’ve installed the Google Voice app, you can receive calls on your mobile phone from your Google number. You can also dial out from your cell phone using the app, and people will see your Google Voice number, not your cell phone number.
Just click on “Call with Google Voice,” and your call will get routed through your Voice account. Why is this useful? Imagine you’re starting a new business and you’d like a unique number that you can route to different phones depending on who’s calling. Create one group of contacts that rings your phone, a second group that rings your mobile, and so on.
2. Listen In to Your Voicemail
Remember the days when you had a voice message recorder, and when a caller would start leaving a message, you would also hear the voice from the speaker? With the advent of digital voicemail, that ability to screen calls by listening to the beginning of the message is a disappearing luxury. Well, Google brings it back by integrating ListenIn (TM) service into Google Voice. The way it works is really simple. First, in your Voice account, make sure that under “Call” settings, “Call Presentation” is enabled.
This tells the system that when someone calls you, you’d like to have the option to handle the call in a variety of ways. You can press (1) to immediately accept, (2) to immediately send to voicemail while listening in and pressing (*) if you want to jump into the call.
3. Automatic Transcription of Every Voicemail
While the bugs aren’t quite all worked out of the system yet, the transcription feature works well enough that you can pretty much understand what the person was saying. In the following text call, I used the “listen in” feature, and from the calling-in phone I left a message that went, “This is a test voicemail for a MakeUseOf article.” You can check your voicemails either online or from your phone.
As you can see, the first half of the sentence was transcribed perfectly. The second had “14” instead of “for a”, but “Make Use of” is understandable and close enough. “Our call” was an obvious near miss of “article,” however you can see that those two words are grayed out because the system had a hard time recognizing those words.
4. Recording Phone Calls
Make sure it’s legal where you live, but another option when you have an incoming call is to press (1) and (4) to accept the call and record it. Yup, record it – which brings me to the next cool Google Voice feature, recording phone calls for interviews, police interrogations, or simply to have a record of the conversation.
There’s no transcription available for recorded conversations, so you’ll need to log into your Voice account to play back the conversation. You can email the file to someone, download it as an MP3 file, or embed it into a website.
5. Customizing Greetings and Other Group Settings
As I mentioned earlier, one of the coolest features of Voice that makes the system ultra-flexible is the fact that you can customize how Google handles and routes your phone calls. It essentially acts as a personal secretary – a phone switchboard that can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.
Under “Settings” and “Groups”, you can create any group that you like, and edit individual settings as shown above. Select what phone (or phones) should ring, select (or record) a special greeting, and you can even disable Call Presentation for a particular group so that the call immediately starts when you pick up, rather than offering you the usual options to forward to voicemail.
The real promise of Google Voice is home phone number portability – the potential for doing away with our dependency on the phone company or the cable company for overpriced phone service. Why pay a monthly fee, when you could have your home phone number ported over to Google Voice, and manage how incoming calls are routed (to individual family cellphones, or to work phones) depending on who’s calling?
While the voicemail feature is extremely useful and versatile, the potential of home phone portability, which Googlein the near future, could completely transform the playing field in the telecommunications industry and revolutionize home telephone service as we know it, or it could fall flat on its face and go down as one of Google’s most significant failed initiatives to date. It will be fascinating to see if Google can manage to make this baby fly.
For another solution, remember you can always use a cordless phone with an answering machine.