Google Voice, where have you been all my life? You give me sophisticated voicemail, call screening features, and even let me send text messages for free. Until four months ago, it was available by invitation only, but now it's available for everyone. And it doesn't cost a cent! My only question to you readers is, what are you waiting for?
Unlimited free calls anywhere in the US and Canada. Pinch me, I must be dreaming. That's right, you can call nearly anywhere for free (and internationally for dirt-cheap prices), using any of your normal phones or cellphones. The phone companies must loathe this. There is a limit, though — you can only talk for three hours on each call. If that's going to cramp your style, well, you can hang up and call back, or stop talking so much.
It can ring all your phones at the same time. When someone calls your Google Voice number, you can adjust the settings so that it rings either your cellphone, your land line, all of your phones, or any of them in combination at the same time. And, you can switch from your land line to your cellphone in the middle of a call.
Tricky stuff. You can configure it to disable phone lines at certain times of day. For instance, make it so your home phone never rings during business hours, or your business line never rings during your play time.
You can record calls. Just push a few buttons, and you're recording. However, you can only do this with incoming calls — you can't record outgoing calls.
Customize your greetings. Sound all serious for your business line, coo and gush to your significant other, and sound like a parent/cop to your kids.
Voicemail wizardry. This is one of the coolest features. You can use it just like regular voicemail, calling in to hear your messages. However, you can also access your voicemail via email, and it works a lot like Gmail. There's a website where you can listen to all your voicemail, archive all your old voicemail, and place calls.
Voicemail transcription. Google even makes a hamhanded attempt at transcribing your voicemails, sometimes to comic effect. Even so, you can usually tell what the caller was saying by reading your transcribed voicemail, letting you furtively check voicemail in the middle of a meeting or conference.
You must pick a new number, but you can keep your old ones, too. You can make that new Google Voice number meaningful to you. I chose my old phone number from my childhood, with my current area code at the beginning. My old friends and family got a kick out of that, and now they automatically have my phone number memorized.
Conference calling. Hook up to five people together with a few button pushes.
Shield yourself. If you have an annoying ex who keeps calling you, but you still need to hear his or her voicemails, you can make it so that person can never talk to you, but is always sent directly to voicemail.
Screen calls just like the old days when we had answering machines, listening in on calls and deciding if we wanted to pick up or not. You can even configure it to stop callers at the beginning of the call, requiring them to announce their names before you let them speak with you. It's like having your own personal butler.
There's no iPhone app yet, but Android nails Google Voice. There's currently some movement toward Apple finally accepting a Google Voice app, but BlackBerry and Google Android let you enjoy all the wonders of Google Voice now. Because there's no iPhone app, outgoing calls won't go through Google Voice on that platform yet.
Free texting. This one capability makes it worth trying. Now you can avoid one of the biggest ripoffs in the world, text messaging, which can cost you $1310 per megabyte.
What's the downside? There are hardly any negatives. Here's one: Emergency numbers, such as 911, don't work when you've configured your phone with Google Voice. If that makes you paranoid, you can place emergency services on speed dial.
Here's a bunch of videos that show you all the coolness you get for free from Google Voice.
Want to know how to sign up for Google Voice, and how to get it set up? Here's my screen-by-screen article right here.
Via Google Voice