Google Voice began life as a startup named GrandCentral. Launched in 2005, the service was a way to unify all of your telephone communications, and caught the attention of the omnipresent Google. The search giant came along and purchased the company on July 2nd, 2007 for $95 million. They continued to operate the service under the original name until it morphed into Google Voice on March 11th, 2009.
For the past 15 months the service has been in invitation-only Beta mode, but it grew in popularity in spite of this fact. Even with its supposed limited amount of adoption, when Google tried to launch an app for service on the iPhone, it got out, but was quickly removed, leading to the government investing Google, Apple and AT&T to see what exactly happened. The company eventually came back with a Web interface that allowed you to still use the service on the popular phone, albeit via the browser.
Now, Google has finally opened the service up to everyone in the United States. You receive an inbox that looks a lot like Gmail, and you can sort voice mails, forward them, read transcriptions of them, record your calls, choose to block certain callers and a whole lot more. Once you've chosen your Google Voice number and give it out to people, you get a whole world of controls that just haven't been possible for most people. I've been using the service since early 2008, and I absolutely love the unified calling the Voice number gives me, allowing that number to ring my house, office and cell phone all at the same time so no one has to guess where I am.
The only real let down for me with the service has been the inability to port existing numbers. I have had a heck of a time getting people to use the number, and they instead go around calling all my old numbers still. I picked a number very close to my house number, and I still can't get people to switch over. No matter, though, I still love it for when people choose to use it.
Although there had been some talk of eventual charges for services such as being able to record calls, I have heard no mention of that in some time now. There has also been talk here and there of advertisements running during the time it takes someone to pick up the phone, or while on hold, there has also been no mention of that in some time now.
Personally, I love the service, and I recommend everyone at least try it out.
What say you? Have you tried Google Voice yet? What did you think of it?