It sometimes amazes me at all the free stuff that is rapidly becoming available on the Internet. I’m not really sure how any of these companies make any money to stay alive, but they keep offering some really cool stuff. I guess some of them don’t make it in the long run, so truth be told they might want to re-think their business strategy. But, one company that is clearly going to make it is Google – so check out their Google Voice service.
I was looking for a way to keep tabs on all of my phone calls while I was away on vacation and a friend of mine (Bret Carpenter of Orig’native) suggested I take a look at Google Voice. The place I was vacationing at did actually have Internet, but there was no cell phone service. So, I needed a way to electronically be able to either forward my phones or call them to get my messages. After a quick read about Google Voice, it became clear to me that this was the answer.
This service offers you a Free Phone. Yes, I said that it was a “Free Phone!” You simply go to http://www.google.com/voice and sign into your existing Google account or set one up (accounts are free too). You can then follow the steps to choose your own Phone Number (which typically would be a regional number like “928” for the Flagstaff area) or transfer an existing phone number over to your account. This then gives you an Internet phone account that allows you to make unlimited calls nationally, unlimited texts nationally, a voice mail for when people call you, inexpensive international calls, … It even tries to transcribe your voice mail messages into text that you can read instead of checking it and/or have it send it to your own email or cell phone text account. It can also integrate into your Gmail account as the “chat” feature too. There are clearly a whole bunch of really neat settings and features that make it a great online Internet Phone.
I was also surprised that the quality of both incoming and outgoing sound was pretty good simply using the microphone and speakers in my laptop. You can plug in headphones if you want it even better, but even though I had them I found it unnecessary. I ended up making a few calls on it and everyone said I sounded fine, and I could hear them fine too.
I’ve been asking myself since successfully using this phone during my vacation why I actually pay for some of my other phones. My friend Bret (who recommended this service) uses his Google Voice phone as his main phone line at absolutely no cost. So, why am I paying a monthly fee for a home phone that doesn’t have unlimited long distance, voicemail, etc…? I’m not sure…?
Regardless of whether you want to get rid of your phone and reduce your costs or are simply looking for another means of communication, I give Google Voice – “… a thumbs up!”