I had a dream. In this dream, there was a service that allowed me to have just one phone number which would ring any or all my phones (cell, home, work) and even allow me to make long distance calls. If I change my number, I can forward my calls to my new number seamlessly. I can even forward specific numbers to specific phones only. And all this was completely free.
Incredibly, Google has created such a service for free called Google Voice. Currently, it’s still in Beta and available only by invitation but all you have to do is sign up and wait.
Once I got it, I discovered it has even more features that I knew about. Here are a few that pleasantly surprised me:
Call Screening – You can set your settings so that Google Voice will ask the caller for their name if they are not in your contact list. It’s like having your own secretary.
Listen In – Just like the old answering machines of the 80’s, you can listen to the messages being left by the caller, then decide if you want to pick up the call. Amazing. Why don’t they have this feature on voicemail for cell phones? This is perfect for people avoiding calls from stalkers.
Voicemail Transcripts – As you would expect, when you get a voicemail, you can get an email or SMS message to alert you. That’s no surprise. However, the message contains the transcript of the voicemail. Yes, that’s no bull. It’s not perfect but it seems to work fairly well. In any case, you also get the full MP3 of the actual voicemail so you can always listen to the real caller.
Ring Multiple Phones – This is the main feature of the service. But there’s more to it than all your phones ringing. You can also direct certain “groups” (e.g. friends) to specific phones, or even automatically send specific numbers to voicemail (or even your SPAM folder) without ringing at all. There’s so much you can do with this, it’s mind boggling.
Call Record – Are you serious?! Yes, you can finally record your calls simply by pressing “4” on your phone. When you’re done, press “4” again. The MP3 file is available in your account online. Not only that, you get a transcript AND code to embed a player directly into your blog. You know I’m going to use this feature to record those customer service calls for this blog. Check this out:
Call Switch – As if those aren’t enough features, how about being able to switch phones without hanging up. You heard me. Simply press the star button on your phone during your call, then your other phone will ring. Now, just pick that the second phone, and hang up the first phone. So easy, even a caveman could do it. How many times have I said, “Let me call you back from my cell phone because…” No more.
Free – WTF!? That’s the most amazing feature. It would be great to have all these features (and much more) for a small fee. But when it comes for FREE, you’re just speechless. They even start you off with 10 cents for out-of-the-country calls.
The free long distance (US and Canada) is a game changer for sure. Why would anybody pay for long distance with their land line carrier anymore? All you have to do is sign up for Google Voice and get free long distance calls.