Google Voice was already a game-changer when it re-emerged a few months ago with a new look and some new features. Now, with the addition of mobile apps for Blackberry and Android phones (of which there are expected to be many more later this year), the service becomes that much more powerful. (Interestingly enough, there was no iPhone app for Google Voice. Hmmm.)
As much as I like the Google Voice service, it's true that the experience has been less than perfect. The transcription of voice messages, for example, is so far-from-perfect that I don't even rely on it. But I'm also not losing sleep over that. It would be nice if Google could beef it up - but I'm glad that the company is focusing on other things instead - like these mobile apps.
For some time now, I have been using my Google Voice number as a find-me-anywhere work number. When someone calls my GV number, it rings in three locations - my cell phone, home phone and office phone. No matter where I am, that call reaches me. But I've resisted using it as my new mobile number, largely because there was no real way to make calls from my existing cell phone and have my GV number appear as the Caller ID number.
As a side note, SMS text has never been a problem - I can send and receive text messages using my GV number on my Blackberry and recipients see the text as coming from my GV number, not my cell number.
But phone calls were a different story - until now. By using the app, users can dial directly from within Google Voice and the recipients will see the GV number pop up.
In addition, the mobile app also integrates with the contacts on my Blackberry so I can better communicate with the folks who are in that address book. On the Google Voice Web application, the service integrates with my Gmail address book already and allows me to customize the settings, such as a specific ring tone for some callers.
The invitations for Google Voice have been out for some time now - and the company is slowly inviting people to get their own numbers, including a cool new feature that lets people use words to select their own vanity number - something like (408) CALL-SAM. (No, that's not my number.)
I've seen some chatter this morning about Google becoming a phone company - but I think that's a bit misleading. Google is providing a phone number - but not phone service. To use Google Voice, users still need access to phone service somewhere - whether it's work, home, cell or even your mama's house. Without an actual phone to ring, Google Voice is nothing more than a single-number voicemail service (which is perfectly OK for some people, too.)
When it comes to Google Voice, the telecoms shouldn't feel threatened. People like me are still paying for landline and mobile phone service - even if our Google Voice number is the only one we're giving out.