By Steve Bass | Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 6:49 am
For the last year or so, Google Voice (formerly called Grand Central, a name I loved) was available only if someone invited you. Yeah, I know; I never did. It’s now open to everyone in the United States (stop whining) and I suggest you look at it.
I’ve hot-linked some of the features I talk about to short YouTube videos that’ll give you more details.
The basics: Google Voice gives you a local number with tons of rich features that becomes the one number you’ll use. You configure Google Voice with all your other phones — smart or dumb cell phones and landlines, at home or work – and, based on who’s calling, have Google Voice route the call directly to voicemail or any of your phones. If you don’t know where you’ll be — say, work, home, or mobile — Google Voice can ring all your numbers; you pick up the one that’s handiest.
Of course, Google Voice gives you options: Rather than using a Google Voice phone number, you can use your existing phone number and still get some of the features. (Here’s a breakdown comparing using your own number versus the one Google supplies.)
Google Voice gives you the usual tricks like voicemail, call forwarding, and teleconferencing, but it’ll also record calls and add a transcription that you can save or send to your e-mail program if you wish. Call screening is included so you can listen as the person leaves a voicemail to decide if you want to pick up the line. (Think about your boring Uncle Harry or your pesky boss.)
Two more intriguing treats are call blocking and customized voicemail greetings. You can set specific incoming calls to go right to voicemail without your phone ringing, tag other numbers as spam, or simply block the caller completely. You can also create different greetings for particular people or groups of individuals; in my case, relatives on my wife’s side of the family. (We’ve moved to Japan; leave a message and we’ll get back to you in 2015.)
From the Google Voice site, you can access your messages, transcriptions, and recordings, and click to initiate calls (your real phone will ring and Google Voice connects you). Checking voicemail the old-fashioned way is easy: Just call your Google number.
Once you try it, give me a call (ha!).
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