Not to be Outdone by Skype, Google Voice Goes Public
Let the voice wars begin! The same day Skype releases its SkypeKit Beta Program, Google tries to one-up: This morning, the company announced that Google Voice will now be open to the public, without the previous need for invitation.
Now, anyone can sign up for one number which can be connected to multiple other numbers, voicemail transcription (often inaccurate), free calls and text messages within the U.S. and Canada, and low-priced international calls.
Having used Voice for over a month now, I have to say that its functions are superbly convenient. I’m emailed every time somebody leaves a voice mail, and the message handily provides me with both a playable audio clip and transcription. Having transcribed many a interview during my days as an editorial intern, I’ll be the first first to acknowledge that translating mumbling voices into text is a hard gig, but that said, the transcription service still needs serious tuning; for example, my girlfriend’s rather simple voicemail, “Hello? Well, call me, bye,” was thought to be “Ohh on Connie and I.” Needless to say, I was disappointed when I heard the actual audio.
It’s also great that all my numbers can be converged under one über-number.
Jamie Block pointed out, there doesn’t seem to be anything that can stop one from signing up someone else’s phones under one number, which could make for great pranks. Update: Alas, it turns out you have to verify Google Voice using your phone, so pranks like these are probably off limits.
Other great features include SMS-to-email and call screening: more barriers for pesky sales callers to overcome. Here’s a neat little video showing the list of features, which can also be accessed here:
Sadly, Google Voice is only available for US phone numbers only. As TNW suggests, those outside of the States should see if alternative Ribbit is available in their country and give it a try. Or you could just use, you know, Skype. The funny thing is, Google agrees (at least in Italy).