Google Voice, call me!

You may remember my enthusiasm for GrandCentral, a free online voice mail, PBX, and one-#-for-life scheme with fantastic potential for cruising boaters (as well as mere mortals).  In that March, 2007, entry I even hoped for/predicted the startup’s purchase by Google, which happened almost immediately.  It remained functional, but very quiet, all these months.  (I never did use it as a real contact number, because I like the Maine numbers I have, but did use its slick call recording abilities for tasks like testing the Cobra noise cancelling cell mic.)  Well, finally GrandCentral has emerged as Google Voice, with several added features like voice-to-text, conferencing, and Skype-style cheap foreign calls (only from whatever U.S. phone you’re near).  Let’s test the voice-to-text; if you click on that widget above, you can call my number for free; you’ll hear a voice message I custom recorded to go with the widget, and the message you leave will be converted to text and sent to me via e-mail or text message (along with a link to your recorded message). I tried it once myself and it worked very well, but you may talk funny…


My Google Voice home site, where I can manage messages and settings, is a lot plainer than GrandCentral’s, but with good reason. It’s very similar to the standard Gmail site with which it’s tightly integrated.  Those “Groups” seen below are the same groups I’ve established for some of my Gmail contacts, and I can use them to determine who gets through to my phones (one or many), which voice mail greeting they get, and whether or not I want to decide how to handle their call in real time (Call Presentation).  Foreign calls can be placed from your phone or this site (it will first connect to whatever phone you’re at), the coverage seems global, and the rates are sweet.  Like 3 cents a minute to Chile and 25 cents to Easter Island (also in Chile).  But you can’t place calls from a foreign number (yet).  And you still can’t port an existing phone number to Google Voice (which I’ve been hoping for), though they say they’re working on it (and they are Google).
   The worst thing about Google Voice, though, is that you can’t have it.  Like some other reviewers (good detail there), the only reason I do is that I managed to sign up for GrandCentral during the brief period it was open.  I could even sell the NYC number I have for a few bucks on eBay.  Which is weird, as according to Pogue, Google Voice will be open to all in “a few weeks”.  (Note to the nattering nabobs of underwater lights: this is useful!)

Google_Voice_screen2_cPanbo.jpg

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Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now excited to have Ben Stein as very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Panbo is going to the next level in 2019 and beyond.

8 Responses

  1. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    So cool! Wasn’t it just ‘yesterday’ that voice to text was a serious software challenge? I recall that the programs were expensive and required you to teach them about how you talked before they would do much at all.
    Well, Google Voice is not bad, especially for free. I’ve had several calls now (thanks!) and the only one that wasn’t fairly understandable in text was from an Irishman with a somewhat warpy cell connection (I think). He said:
    “Hi. I love your blog and we’ll see if Google can handle an Irish accent. Thank you very much; this is Jerry.”
    Which GV translated as: “i i love your blog i wanna see if goes and how it goes on our sections thank you very much this is cherry”
    But GV colored most that text light gray indicating that it wasn’t sure of itself, and also provides “Transcript useful?” yes/no buttons suggesting that it wants to learn how to do better voice-to-text translations.
    Come to think of it, Google is about to the best voice-to-text learning tool on the planet!
    At any rate, I modified my voice greeting to suggest that you talk somewhat slowly and that you say “period” at the end of a sentence, as though you were sending a telegram in an old movie. Let’s try some more…

  2. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I knew this could get funny. When William B. said “I really enjoy your Panbo” Google Voice thought he said “your bimbo”.
    Meanwhile, Google has also come up with automatic email replies:
    http://mail.google.com/mail/help/autopilot/index.html
    (remember what day it is)

  3. Gerry says:

    Hi, I’m the Irish guy who left the message and Google did as well at understanding my accent as most Americans. I may try another message after a few drinks. Slainte!

  4. yachtvalhalla says:

    Doesn’t seem to work for me.
    I get blank boxes asking for Name and number.
    I don’t want to call myself and don’t know yours.

  5. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Terry (yachtvalhalla), the way it works is that you put your phone number in that box and then Google Voice calls you and connects you to my GS number, for free.
    However, it won’t work for numbers outside the USA. If you do have an inexpensive way to call the State, my Google # is 347-744-9196. I’ll call you back if you leave me a number. I’m not sure where you are right now, but I can call Thailand for 3 cents a minute using Google Voice. Actually, I have something I’d like to discuss with you privately.

  6. boatingrob says:

    I signed up for GrandCentral back in the day as well but never used it. I’ve read about the switch but still haven’t done anything. What I don’t understand is what happens if someone calls my GV # and I don’t have them as a contact? What phone will it call? I have 2 #s in there, 1 for my cell, 1 for my wife.

  7. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Rob, Google Voice has a default setting for phones to ring, voicemail greeting, etc. The business of setting up different responses by contact group is just an optional feature. Also, if you do set up such options, there’s still a “Do not disturb” command that puts all calls to voice mail. They’ve tried to think of everything.

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