At first it sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it? Google trying to replace phone companies? The concept sounds kind of crazy. That’s what I thought too… until I did a little bit more research. And honestly speaking, I too have gotten a Google Voice number!
Google Voice is one of Google’s latest endeavors. Their philosophy is not one phone number per device, but rather one phone number per person. It’s an amazing philosophy and the results are pretty damn impressive! Google Voice is currently a private beta and is invitation only. An invitation is also rather hard to obtain for those of us without friends already using Google Voice. I emailed a few of mine and a couple hours later, I was the proud recipient of a Google Voice invitation! I signed up and decided to give it a whirl.
Currently, in terms of phone services, I have a home phone number (powered by Vonage) as well as a cellular device, the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 with AT&T as the service provider. I love the fact that Vonage emails me transcriptions of my voice messages and allows me to listen to them from the web-based interface. Unfortunately, AT&T does not. This means that my voice messages are in two different places and makes things much harder to look for. My main reason for looking into Google Voice was so that I could get all of my messages transcribed and emailed to me. It makes life much easier when all of your messages come to one inbox!
As part of the Google Voice signup process, I had to choose my new “Google Number”, effectively this is just a standard phone number powered by Google Voice! Here’s the cool part, it allows me to have free national calling as well as extremely low rates to most countries. Not quite as low as Vonage but still much lower than AT&T! The beauty of it is that whenever anyone calls my new Google Number, it will automatically ring both my Vonage phone and my Xperia X1 and whichever one I answer with will take the call. Of course, there is a boatload of other features that Google Voice offers as well and all of them are truly amazing solutions! Best of all Google Voice is free! You can view the full feature list here.
After looking through Google Voice and all of it’s features it seems that Google has the infrastructure set up to successfully replace my phone company. Unfortunately for them, they were unable to buy the airwave space that they required in order to become a cellular phone company. For now however, I don’t see Google Voice replacing my phone companies but rather working along with them to add features and functionality at low cost. In the future, however, I could definitely see Google replacing my phone company with Google Voice and I would guess that they would do a brilliant job at it. I for one would be willing to pay Google for the service, though I do prefer free over fee any day.
For a beta product, Google Voice certainly is a very impressive service. It’s something you notice with Google a lot. All of their products that are considered beta or even pre-alpha are very good quality. Honestly speaking their beta products are a lot of time better than paid products from other companies! In fact, I’m writing this from Google Chrome for Linux unstable on Ubuntu 9.04. That means pre-alpha stage. Guess what? In the two months that I’ve been using it, the only thing it can’t do is print successfully — something that Google warned me about before I installed Chrome for Linux. It’s something I do rarely as it is and if I ever do need to print, it doesn’t take too much effort to fire up Mozilla Firefox and print from there.