It’s been a long time coming, but Google Voice has grown up – you no longer need a Google Voice invite to use Google’s free phone service. I’ve been using the service for a while, and it’s been great – read on to see why.
What Is Google Voice?
Google Voice allows you to pick a new number, which can be made to ring at any number of phones. This, along with call forwarding and screening, can all be controlled from a simple web-based interface. It also provides inexpensive international calling and voicemail-to-text transcription (voicemails arrive as emails or texts).
Why Use Google Voice?
I’m sure there will be use cases for this system I can’t come up with, but some ideas include:
- Save Money: If you have a second phone line just for the extra number, Google Voice can replace this. It also might be an alternative for those that carry a work and business cell phone (want to leave the business phone behind? Turn off Google Voice forwarding). The international calling rates will save some companies money as well.
- Control Your Phone: Google Voice allows you to set rules for particular callers, sending them to a different phone or greeting. You can decide to have work calls sent to your cell one night – or turn on call screening, so you know who’s on the line before you pickup (or just send to voicemail).
- Voicemail Convenience: Hate listening to voicemail? Google Voice will automatically transcribe your voicemail to text, and you can have these sent to your email inbox, or have them arrive on your phone as texts. In the Google Voice control panel, you can even delete voicemails right from your computer.
- Privacy: Don’t want people to know when you’re at home, at the office, or at the park? With one number ringing wherever you go, no one has to know where you’re doing business today. There is even a widget for your website – people enter their phone number, and you’ll automatically call them, so your phone number does not have to be printed online.
- Call Tracking: If you want to track phone calls that come from a particular advertising source, you could use a Google Voice number. The system keeps a log of all received and missed calls, which could be counted – it’s not an ideal solution, but the price is right.
Are Their Downsides?
In the time I’ve used Google Voice, there are three downsides I’ve noted.
- Quality Issues: On rare occasions, there is a small delay in the call. I think this is better now than in the early days – hopefully the fact that they are opening up the system means issues like this are solved.
- New Phone Numbers: Changing to Google Voice requires picking a number from Google. If your business is established, changing phone numbers may be a problem. There are also no 1-800 numbers.
- Not a Complete VoIP Solution: Although Google Voice is similar to some VoIP solutions, it does not allow you to make or receive a call from your computer. A regular telephone and number are required. (Although you can get a number at your computer inexpensively from Skype)
There has been speculation that Google will develop a more complete business phone solution, to compete head-on with companies such as RingCentral. This is possible but pure speculation at this point. It’s also likely that by then they will have established the ability to port numbers, meaning you may as well go and give Google Voice a try today.