Google Voice is coming to the BlackBerry and Android phones in a move that could make the search giant your phone company. The move is also the latest sign of a tug-of-war between carriers that want to be value added services and device and mobile software players that see the carriers as mere dumb pipes.
You can already see the iPhone making phone services less relevant---you just want the data hookup and the carrier to get out of the way for the apps. Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless is planning its own application marketplace to get better control. Now Google and Android are entering the picture with Google Voice, formerly known a Grand Central. Google Voice basically acts as a switchboard that funnels your various phone numbers into one.
A bunch of bloggers received demos of the Google Voice app, which is due today, but can't be found as of this posting at m.google.com/voice, a URL passed along by TechCrunch. I want to check it out on my BlackBerry, but get a 404 error. For Android phones, Google Voice can be found on the Android marketplace. Update: Google Voice for the BlackBerry is available now.
CNet News' Tom Krazit sums up the general idea:
With the new applications, Google Voice users will be able to make calls from their smartphones with their Google Voice numbers displayed on the other end of the call, alleviating a common frustration with the service.
An iPhone app is coming. Google Voice uses the existing carrier's network so it's not an end run, but clearly the search giant is putting itself in the middle of the call and offering its own value added services (text transcription, voice mail and single number assignment).
Om Malik notes that Google Voice may mean that the search giant can be your phone company too---especially on Android. He writes:
The Google Voice app essentially reduces the cell phone carrier to essentially a dumb pipe. While the Blackberry application is interesting, it is the Android application that shows that Google has bigger designs. I have been playing around with the Android App for about an hour or so and I can see the broader implications. When I was setting up the app, one of the options I was given: make all calls through Google Voice. And that’s when I thought to myself: oh! oh!
Wireless carriers, which certainly don't see themselves as dumb pipes, may be thinking the same thing.
Update: Google officially launched the mobile Google Voice on a blog post. The company said:
Previously, to place a call using Google Voice, you had to dial your own Google Voice number from your cell phone or use the Quick Call button online. With this new mobile app, you can make calls and send SMS messages with your Google Voice number directly from your mobile phone. The app is fully integrated with each phone’s contacts, so you can call via Google Voice straight from your address book.
From the mobile app, you can:
- Access your voicemail: read message transcripts, follow along with "karaoke-style" playback of messages, read SMS messages sent to your Google Voice number (even if your phone doesn't receive SMS messages) and access your call history
- Place calls that display your Google Voice number from your address book, the app dialer (Blackberry) or the native dialer (Android)
- Send SMS messages that display your Google Voice number
- Place international calls at low rates
Also see: Jobs: Catch the App Store if you can