Users with existing accounts can send up to 3 invitations and the rest of us can request invites via http://google.com/voiceinvite. Google Voice has been a very controversial and closely watched product for some time, but we wrote an extensive review this summer. Our writer Frederic Lardinois said this at the time: "We have used Google Voice ever since it was still GrandCentral (Google acquired GrandCentral in July 2007) and couldn't be happier with the service, so here is our rundown of what you can expect once you get your own Google Voice number."
Check out Frederic's review in June for details on his favorite features and his critiques. Let's just cross our fingers and hope that Voice invites don't go out as slowly as Wave invites have. Voice is a much more fully-baked product, so we presume they won't.
From that post, here are some of the most notable features:
- transcribed voicemails: whenever somebody leaves a voicemail, GV will transcribe the message as best it can (this only works for English right now). These transcripts are then forwarded to your email account and you can also opt to receive an SMS notification.
- listening in to voicemails: whenever you receive a call and decide to let it go to voicemail, you can also choose to listen in and even pick up the call if it turns out to be an important message. This feels just like the old days when answering machines with tapes were still a novelty.
- call screening: one neat option in GV is the ability to screen calls. If you activate this feature, callers will be prompted to leave their name once they call, and once you pick up the phone, GV will play the name back and you can choose if you want the call to go to voicemail or if you want to actually speak to this person. You can opt to let all unknown callers who are not in your Google address book go through this procedure or just those calls from callers who have blocked their caller ID.
- recording calls: at any time during a call, you can press 4 and the call will be recorded. This only works for calls you receive on your phone for now, and doesn't work for outgoing calls.
- conference calls: just ask participants to call your GV number and once more callers call in, you can just conference them in - this works for up to 4 callers.
- switching phones: if you want to switch phones during a call (say you took a call on your home phone and decide you want to take a walk and continue the call on your cell), just press * and all the other phones will ring.
- SMS: you can send and receive text messages from your GV account
- integration with Google Contacts
- it just works: the call quality is good, we didn't experience any outages during the last few months, and calls aren't dropped. GV does what it says it does, and it does it well.
Will Google Voice be your new telephone system? It could be a serious disruption to one of the most powerful industries in the world - the telephone carriers. Now's your chance to give this challenger a try.