Google is touting a new feature for their mobile VoIP application, Google Voice: instant notification of new SMS text messages and voicemails. You may have thought an app meant to replace your phone's functions would already be doing that, but in reality, Google Voice delayed notifications for 15 minutes by default. You could change this to 5 minutes or force a refresh manually, but many don't bother tweaking settings or obsessively refreshing just to see if they have new messages. Now that's no longer necessary - messages are delivered almost immediately.

According to news posted on the Google Voice blog, the new notification feature called "Inbox Synchronization" will notify your Android-powered device (sorry, iPhone users!) of new messages "within seconds" of receiving them. That's not exactly real-time, but close enough - at least now your text messaging friends won't think you're ignoring them.

Unfortunately, this feature isn't being switched on automatically - Google Voice users will have to make the adjustments themselves. To enable it, you'll need to open the Google Voice settings on your phone and touch Refresh and notification. Doing so will automatically disable SMS forwarding to your phone, too, so you won't receive duplicate notifications.

Also included in the update is a new pop-up bar that appears when you tap a contact's photo. From here, you can quickly respond via voicemail, email or IM.

Google Voice: Not There Yet?

Despite this obviously welcome advance for the Google Voice app on Android handsets, some are still questioning why the service hasn't been better integrated with the mobile operating system itself. Only days ago, tech guru and founder of O'Reilly Media, Tim O'Reilly, posted on Google's new service, Buzz: "What's with Google Voice as a second-class citizen on Android?"

He cites a few examples of improvements that he believes should be made specifically regarding the app's voicemail feature. "There's no link to [voicemail] from the phone app, even if it's installed, so you have to use the old-fashioned voice mail, or else check it in a separate application," he notes. "Phone numbers that are left in messages are not clickable dial links when the message is transcribed."

Soon after, dozens of commenters chimed in, some with their own gripes, mentioning issues with transcriptions and making calls. However, more were actually sticking up for the service than complaining.

Anecdotally, we've heard stories from Google Voice users who've complained about minor issues that, on their own, don't seem like "make it or break it" bugs. But they can be irksome enough that some of these users aren't making a full transition from phone-based calls, texts and voicemail over to the VoIP application. That may change in the future as Google pushes out more updates and bug fixes...at least we hope it will.

In the meantime, at least some people are having fun with the service's issues. For example, over on the Facebook page ****GoogleVoiceSaid, mimicked after the Twitter account with a similar name, users share the worst (and funniest) translations Google Voice has created. An example post: "This is or you need the hello. Yeah for hello hello at." Sounds like voice recognition still has a ways to go.

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