Google Voice is Google’s approach to phone calls, voice mail, and SMS. It is an invite only technology but with the rising popularity of Android phones and the integration of Google Voice in the OS, invites can be as easy as launching an app.
Setting up Google Voice on my Nexus One was extremely easy. The app connected me to the service and gave me a choice for voicemail between my carrier’s service or Google Voice. What made Google’s option compelling was my voice mail would also be turned into text and a copy sent to my email. On an Android phone with the different messaging widget possible, this makes it very easy to screen calls and figure out what is really important.
Another option is the ability of creating custom messages for individual callers or even groups. This way it is still possible to leave a timely message even when having to miss a call. Setting this up is easy, click a contact and select your preference.
Digging deeper, I discovered I was given another phone number from Google. Anyone calling this number would be routed back to whichever phone I used with Google Voice. In fact, I could set this number up to be routed back to multiple phones. When a caller is being routed through this number, it is this Google number that shows up on the caller ID. T-Mobile users could add this number to their favorites and hand the number out like candy and never worry about using up their minutes.
Android Phones also have several options for using Google Voice when placing calls. Considering that all calls through Google Voice to the United States and Canada are free, it can be a handy option when making calls between these two countries and a way around the rate hikes from carriers like AT&T. In addition, phone calls to other countries through this service are charged at two cents a minute. As an option, all international calls can automatically be set to be used through a Google number.
There is more in the works with Google Voice. In November 2009, Google purchased a company called Gizmo5 which provided VoIP software and services. Google Voice is not quite a VoIP service yet but it does seem indicate Google will be providing VoIP in the future. However, if you are an already existing Gizmo user you can set up VoIP, it is everyone else that has to wait.