Yesterday, search giant Google released a critical new component in its mobile-voice strategy, Google Voice applications for both its own Android mobile OS and the BlackBerry platform. Like the invite-only Google Voice service, the new apps are free. And they go a long ways toward making Google Voice a viable everyday calling solution. But a few key shortcomings need to be addressed before I can consider fully embracing
First off, what is Google Voice? Well, Google Voice is (currently) a free service that provides you with one central phone number that can be tied to various phones--your BlackBerry, iPhone, office phone, a home landline, etc. So whenever someone calls you via Google Voice, by default any and all of the associated phones receive the call.
How do you get in on Google Voice? Sign up for an invite. Unfortunately, you may be waiting for a while--and the service is only available in the United States. The BlackBerry and Android apps can be downloaded for free directly from Google.
The value of the service is in having a single phone number regardless of how many actual lines you employ. And you never have to give out a personal cell number or your home digits; simply "connect" those phones to Google Voice via the online portal, and they'll ring whenever someone calls you via Google. You can also "disconnect" any and all of your Google Voice phones, so they no longer ring when your universal number is dialed.
Overall, I really appreciate the Google Voice service. I employ lots of different devices all the time--my own gadgets, review units, etc.--and Google Voice is a great way to ensure I receive important calls on whatever handset I'm carrying. But until yesterday, there was no easy way to place calls via Google Voice so that recipients' caller IDs showed your Google Voice number and not the number of the phone you called from.
In come the new Google Voice apps for Android and BlackBerry, which not only let you place calls using your Google Voice number, you can also use the app to send text messages. I'm not currently using an Android device, so I wasn't able to evaluate that particular version, but I did put the BlackBerry app through the motions. And though it performs as advertised, there are still a number of obstacles Google will need to clear before Google Voice, and the associated mobile apps, are ready for the big time.
Keep on moving for specifics.
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