There has been a lot of talk about Google Voice as of late, but seeing as there is still a fairly limited number of people using the service, there is still a significant number of people out there that don’t know what it is, or what exactly it does.  What is Google Voice, and why could it go on to become one of the most important products released by Google?

grandcentralStarting life as a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service named GrandCentral, Google purchased the company in July, 2007 for $95 million and then essentially did nothing with it, which led to a lot of early adopter customer frustration.  As more and more people began to think the service had been totally abandoned, an announcement was made on March 11, 2009 that the service was being re-branded as “Google Voice”, and not only would it keep the features users loved, it was going to add even more.

So, what are the features that make people go nuts for this service?

Call Routing

This is by far my favorite feature.  You can get a number from Google, or use one of your own was been rolling out slowly, and then set it up so it rings as many phones as you want at the same time.  When someone calls my Google Voice number it immediately rings my house landline, my office landline and my cell phone at the same time.  I can answer it from any of the phones I choose no matter where I am.

Call Recording

When someone calls your number, no matter which of your phones you pick up with, you just hit “4” on the keypad and you can begin recording the call to MP3.  Very handy if you are conducting an interview for an article or just need a record of some conversation.

Call Screening

When someone calls your Google Voice number it will allow you to pick up the line and hear an identification of whom is calling, and if you don’t want to talk to them at that time it will just route them to your Google voice mail without them ever knowing you picked up the phone.

googlevoicelogo1Call Blocking

Don’t want to talk to someone that has your Google Voice number?  Simple change the settings for that contact that tells the system to not forward their calls to any of your phones and just send them to your voice mail.

Voice Mail

While certainly not perfect, the system will attempt to transcribe your voice mails into text for you so that you can just read them like emails as opposed to listening to them.

Text Messaging

You can send and receive free text messages via the service and then store them in your inbox just like you would email.

International Calling

Low rates for calling internationally with the Google Voice service.

Is It For You?

While there are other services out there that do a lot of these things, the integration with the rest of your Google products is a definite foot up for them.  By far the biggest selling point in my opinion is the call routing, it quickly reduces frustrations for people who never know where you’ll be and at what time, and it allows me to decide if I want the call on a land line or on my cell without having to bother the other party with it.

However, if you are looking to just make calls, stick with Skype, but if you want a bit more out of your service, then Google Voice is your solution.