Gas up the Delorean (premium Libyan plutonium only please), make sure you have enough road to get up to 88 MPH, and get ready to see some serious shiitake mushrooms with bacon sauce. In a blog post from the future (seriously), Google announced that today officially marks the public opening of its Voice service (formerly Grand Central) to any life form with a Google account currently living in the U.S. So if you’re a fan of time-travel and (mostly) free stuff, you can get started right here, right now.
For the uninitiated, at its core Google Voice is a service that gives you a new phone number which you can link to multiple land-line or cellular phones so people can dial just one set of digits to reach you at any number of places, and apparently points in time or alternate dimensions that you might happen to be in (please note that calls to anti-universes are still suffering connection problems at this time). The service is capable of so much more though, especially if you’re rocking an Android handset. Here’s a brief run-down.
Calling / Texting
From one point of view, Google Voice turns your web browser into a telephone. You can place calls, and send text messages from your Google Voice phone number as soon as you sign in. Not only is texting from your familiar, full-sized computer keyboard an almost religious experience, it is also offers hours of fun spent harassing friends and relatives who are unfamiliar with your new Google number. Placing phone calls (through the web browser) is a bit of an awkward affair however. First you type in the number you wish to call, select which of your physical phone numbers you want the call to be placed from, Google will then call your phone first and finally connect you to the number you are trying to reach. This is fantastic for testing out new ring tones, or if you can’t be bothered to type 10 extra number keys on your phone to place the same call. Things look a little brighter however if you are using Google Voice with an Android based smart phone. When you are in a 3G coverage area, or linked up with a WiFi hotspot, the software will ask you if you want to complete an outbound call using your standard voice service, or with Google Voice. Choosing the latter option grants you virtually unlimited talk time as it uses your data plan (or the WiFi) for VoIP and also enables you to place international calls for pennies per minute.
Thank you for calling SemiAccurate headquarters, unfortunately nobody is here to take your complaint. Please leave your name, number and a brief summary of your complaint after the beep. *Beep*. Okay, so there is not much to say about voicemail, except that Google’s take on it is FREAKING AWESOME! Google Voice implements what can only be described as visual voicemail on crack. Not only are the voicemails you receive neatly arranged on the web page and adorned with useful information like phone numbers and time stamps, but Google runs the voicemails through a speech-to-text engine and provides you with a reasonably accurate, printed transcription of the voicemail’s contents. What the heck, they’ll even email you the transcription, since they’ve got nothing but time on their hands.