After a 20+ month wait since the acquisition of GrandCentral by Google, the "phone number for life" service is relaunching as Google Voice. As an early user of GrandCentral, I am very glad to see that Google Voice is adding in many of the features that have been missing from the GrandCentral service, namely:
- Text message forwarding. The Google Voice number will now forward text messages to your mobile device and it appears that you can respond to the messages via the Google Voice number or direct from your mobile phone.
- Phone calls via the web or your mobile/landline. Some of these features have been a part of GrandCentral for a while, so it will be interesting to see if there is an additional feature set.
- Free transcriptions using the GOOG-411 engine. Due to the fact that I currently pay for PhoneTag, I will be very interested in the accuracy of this service. You can read a reaction to this announcement made by James Simnoff of PhoneTage this morning -- in short he says that he looks forward to being able to say that his product is better than Google's; I wonder if Google's will simply be good enough to cause people like me to stop paying for transcription through third parties.
- Easy conference calling. Simply have the people you want to conference with call your GrandCentral number, and add up to 5 of them to the call using the keypad interface.
- Free calls to the US and aggressive international rates. I don't have the international rate chart, but assuming that you can easily make web-based calls using the service, this could be useful.
Current GrandCentral users have to wait for the upgrade notice to show up in their Inbox (mine currently tells me that I am ineligible for an upgrade). There are some things that I'm hoping for that have not yet been confirmed:
- Google Voice shares my Contacts from Gmail to resolve callerID and provide a single contact database.
- Google Voice messages automatically show up in my Gmail account. Lifehacker reports that the "voicemail" label is now reserved by the system in Gmail, so it seems there's a pretty good chance that this will happen.
- Ability to initiate web-based calls directly from the Gmail interface.
Google Voice is currently only available to existing Grand Central users and to people upon whom Google bestows invitations -- if I get some invites, I will certainly let you know.