I’ve been a GrandCentral user for over a year, and use it constantly. Mostly, I use my GrandCentral number as a ‘throwaway’ number that I can freely give to anyone. I’m extremely protective of my ‘real’ cell phone number (haven’t had a landline for years) because I’ve had the same cell number for nearly a decade. I’m one of the few who hasn’t changed numbers, and I also don’t get spam on my cell phone, either via SMS or via voice calls. I have my GrandCentral number listed on my business cards, and it is the number that I spout off whenever a service/store requests a number.
Unfortunately, when Google purchased GrandCentral, it mostly died. Sure, it’s still functional, but as with most of Google’s acquisitions, nothing new happened to it – it was left in what is most accurately called suspended animation – just kinda there. Today, however, Google changed that, relaunching GrandCentral as Google Voice, and bringing in the one feature that I’ve been anxiously awaiting – SMS. Previously, when someone would SMS my GrandCentral number, it went precisely nowhere. The message basically vanished into the ether. Now, though, I’m going to be able to forward it anywhere I want – even receive it as an email. Brilliant.
So, who cares? We all have cell phones now, and they come with a free number. VOIP services like Skype and Gizmo Project have offered you another number for years – what does anyone want with a Google Voice number? The key, in my opinion, is to use Google Voice as a gateway – similar to how you might use a 24-7 assistant or secretary. This person is in control of who gets to talk to me, when, and through what method (voice, email, sms, etc). With Google Voice, I can direct callers to any number (or prevent them from getting through on a number) that I want, and I can setup custom voicemail recordings for different contacts.
Some will also point to the new transcription service as a competitor to Spinvox or YouMail, and while sure, the features are the same, I don’t think Google Voice will compete with Spinvox’s quality transcription (you should see some of the messages that they’ve gotten right – it’s astounding, really) or YouMail’s complete voicemail replacement, with more options than you can shake a stick at.
I’m hoping that Google Voice will prompt the wireless carriers to offer more call management options, personally. It’s absurd that I cannot block a specific number from ringing through to my phone, or that I cannot temporarily forward all of my SMS to another number (when I’m travelling internationally, for instance).