Monday, July 20, 2009
Today I'm going to be talking a little about a relatively new (to Google at least) service that Google is offering by invite only - it's called Google Voice. Formerly known as Yahoo's Grand Central, it was purchased last year by Google and has been in an invite only beta for quite some time now. I believe that it's going to be a major game changer in the market. We don't really see it yet, but mark my words it's going to be huge. I'll get to why I think that way in a little bit.
Before I get ahead of myself too much, however, let's look at Google Voice and some of its cool features. It recently came out of beta, and I believe that while it is still invite only, Google is now regularly sending out invites, which wasn't the case before. I believe I put in my request for an invite about a year ago, when it was still Grand Central. One of the coolest parts of the setup process is that you get to choose a number in your area code as your Google Voice number. The setup wizard will even make suggestions to you with some words you put into it. For example, I'm in the 816 area code, and I wanted to have a number with "Rapp" in it, so I put that in, and the wizard gave me a list of available numbers that had the numerical counterpart of Rapp in it, which happens to be 7277. Pretty sweet I must say.
Google Voice is primarily a service that aims to be one number for all of the ways to get in touch with you. When someone calls your dedicated Google Voice number, ALL of your phones will ring at the same time. This means that whether you're at work, on the road, or potentially even overseas, you can add or remove numbers for Google Voice to call you. And I'm just getting started. Here is a bulleted list of some of the other features. It would take me forever to go through them as there are a ton. This is a list pasted from their site, and is not exhaustive I'm sure.
So, let me set up a typical scenario, and you can immediately see the usefulness that Google is offering here. Let's say I get a phone call on my home phone prior to leaving for work. It's an important one that I must take, but if I don't leave shortly, I'll be late.
Both my cell and home phone ring at the same time. Upon answering, the automated operator tells me who is calling (GV will ask the caller to identify themselves if they haven't called you before.) So, at this point, I can take the call, or I can let it go to Voicemail. I can even LISTEN to the person leaving me the voicemail realtime, and join the call if I think it's necessary, or let it go. Since this is an important call, I choose to take it on the home phone. I talk for a few minutes, and decide I'd better get moving to avoid being late for work. But oh no, I'm on the home phone! Do I tell the person to call me back? Nope. I just hit the star (*) key, at which point all of my other phones will ring. I pick up my cell phone, and hang up the home phone. My call was seamlessly transferred unbeknownst to the caller on the other end.
Let's say though that I hadn't taken that call. I listened to the telemarketer leaving me a voicemail and decided it wasn't worth my time. When the person is done leaving me a message, Google Voice can send a text message of the transcribed voice message straight to my cell phone, eliminating my need to go listen to it. Should I choose to though, I can log straight into my Gmail account and listen to it, forward it to a friend, or download it to listen later. I can even do this from my cell phone, as most Smartphones have web access. Also, if that telemarketer was particularly bothersome, I can have Google Voice tell him that my number has been disconnected each and every subsequent time he calls. Take that!
There are so many more features I'd like to cover, but these are a few of the most important ones to me. Best of all? This service is COMPLETELY FREE. Not that I would condone this type of behavior either, but if you were on a mobile carrier that allowed you to call a number for free (like Verizon's top 5 friends) you could call your Google Voice number, and then have it connect you for free to any phone in the U.S. I have Sprint however, so this isn't something I can do ;)
Now to the why surrounding the impact I forsee this having on the marketplace, as it's going to be a huge one. Google is currently implementing GV into their Android mobile OS. I'm very passionate about the Google Android OS and fuming mad that Sprint doesn't have a phone offering it yet. When they get their heads out of their asses they'll realize that they should have done it a long time ago. Google has 9 phones coming out this year on different subscribers, including two rumored for Sprint, a Samsung based off of the omnia, and an HTC based off of the "Hero."
Currently, Android is only offered on Tmobile in the US, but both AT&T and Sprint should get it this year. Look for it to explode like a sparkler bomb on the 4th of July, MARK MY WORDS. Once it explodes, which it will, it's going to change the industry as we know it. And integrated into that OS, which is destined for way more than just phones, will be Google Voice. You'll have a dashboard built into your Google Phone that will have all of the features listed out so you can easily access them. I can guess that Google will take the guesswork out of knowing what features are there by building a cool interface for it on their phones.
After reading this near novel length blog post, can't you see how this is going to be huge? I sure can, but maybe I have been drinking a little too much of the Google Kool-aid? If I were a betting man, I'd say hold on to your britches, because the game's about to change.
Here's a link to Google's page on Google Voice. I'd suggest to get your number as soon as possible!