Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Frugal For Your Phones - Google Voice Goes Public

After a year or so in invite-only status, Google announced today that Google Voice is now open to the public (US only). I have been using Google Voice for several months now, and I love it.  Google Voice is a "web-based platform for managing your communications" and has lots of great, free features that most phone companies and cell-phone providers charge monthly fees for, and it can do things that your current phone won't.

Google Voice can work with your existing phones and phone numbers, or you can select a new free phone number to use (or both). It gives you a voicemail system that will transcribe voice messages and send them to your email, and you can save them in Google's system for an indefinite period of time. The transcriptions aren't perfect, but I can usually get the gist of a message at a glance without ever having to call into my voicemail box and go through ten button presses just to sit through a message that I didn't care to listen to in the first place. You can always log into Google Voice's email-like interface and play any of the messages, or you can call in just like you would with your current voicemail.

If you select a new phone number, you can set it up to ring as many phones as you want. We set up the Google number as one of our My Circle (or whatever Verizon calls it now) numbers, so it is free to make and receive calls from that number. You can also place calls to anywhere in the US or Canada for free from your Google number after calling into your voicemail. This has been great for us. We didn't want to get rid of our old mobile phone numbers when we relocated to a new state, and we didn't really want to pay for new local phone either. With Google Voice, we have a local number that rings our cell phones. Effectively, anyone in our new or old location can call us with a local call. Of course, if they were all using Google Voice, their long-distance calls would be free anyway.

On top of all that, Google Voice provides you with free unlimited text messaging. If you're really into texting, and you already have Internet access from your phone, then this will basically allow you to dump your current texting plan.

The best part is that there are more cool features yet to come. Google bought out a company called Gizmo5 which provided web-based services for Voice-over-Internet-Protocol communication. It's possible that once they publicly roll out Gizmo5 features into Google Voice, you'll be able to use your Google phone number for making and receiving calls with your computer without even needing a phone line. I'm hoping to use this to turn my iPod touch into a free Voice-over-IP phone. That would be the end paying for home phone service. If you've got a reasonably-priced data plan on your cell-phone, you may also be able to cut out most (if not all) of your use of your voice network.

In any case, Google Voice can save you money now, and it has the potential to save lots more in the future.


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