Okay, okay, I know that Google Voice does not offer a toll-free number option (as of yet), but since it is a hosted virtual pbx system I thought I should use it, review it and make the information available to my visitors so you can take advantage of this AWESOME tool from Google!
Why do I think Google Voice is awesome?
2 big reasons:
- Google Voice is free for anyone making calls within the United States.
- Google Voice has some cool features, a few of which aren't available with any other company
Before I tell you about the features, you should know that Google Voice is not currently open to the public. As of today (8/19/2009) the only way to get Google Voice is to submit your email and wait to be invited to create your account.
When I submitted my email address it took about a week to get my invite - much quicker than I thought it would take. I believe that Google Voice will switch to an open enrollment in the future.
Registration for the Google Voice invite list can be found here.
Google Voice Features
While Google Voice doesn't have all the features of a fully featured hosted virtual pbx system like RingCentral and Grasshopper, it does have some that are very useful that you're going to love as a personal user.
By the way, all of these features have video explanations for them on the Google Voice website:
- Call Screening
- If you turn this on callers to your Google Voice number will have to announce their name before the call is routed to you. Once you answer the call, Google Voice will tell you who is calling. While many people don't like this feature, callers only have to say their name once; when they call back using the same phone Google Voice remembers them.
- Listen In
- This is one of my favorites and is similar to the feature provided by RingCentral. You can listen to the caller as they leave you a message. You can choose to interrupt and take the call at any time. This is also called voice mail screening.
- Block Calls
- Don't want to receive calls from someone? Block their call and you'll never be bothered again by that phone number. What's great is that the message the caller receives is the standard "Doo, doo, doo, this number is not in service or has been disconnected."
- SMS Messaging
- I haven't seen this feature from any other company. Google Voice allows you to receive SMS messages to any of your mobile phones. Replies to text messages will be routed through Google Voice and will appear to come from your Google number. Google Voice stores copies of all messages for you online and you can also send and receive messages from your online account!!
- Place Calls
- You can place calls through Google Voice through your phone, online account, mobile app(sorry the iPhone app was yanked by Apple grrrrrrr.) or mobile web interface.
- Taking Calls
- Not only can you accept calls on any of the phones you designate, you can also record the entire conversation for later use AND receive a transcription of the call.
- Phone Routing
- You can route your calls to any of your numbers AND create routing rules based on the person calling. Place people in groups and create rules for entire groups in one easy step.
- Phone Switch
- You can switch your phone while you're in a call by hitting the * button. Your other registered phone will ring, pick up the one you want and continue with your call.
- Call Record
- You can record any part of a conversation by hitting 4 on your keypad. Hit it again to stop the recording. You can play the recording from your online account.
- Voicemail to Text
- Google Voice will also convert all of your voicemail messages, as you receive them, to text and email you a copy, text you a copy and/or save it in your online account. This is perfect for when you're in a meeting and can't answer your phone but still want to know what the message was.
- Temporary call forwarding
- You can temporarily set an additional "call to" number. This is great for those time when your unable to receive a cell signal but are near a land line you can use.
- Do Not Disturb
- Don't want to be bothered by any phone calls? No problem, Google Voice allows you to turn to set DND from your phone or online account.
Google Voice Mobile
There are mobile apps available for Google Voice if you're using the following:
- Android Devices
- BlackBerry Devices
For everyone else you can use their mobile website. Here is a picture of the interface:
There used to be a Google Voice iPhone app, but Apple pulled the plug on it and is no longer available through the iTunes store.
Google Voice Free Business Cards
When I created my account I was given the opportunity to receive 25 free business cards in 3 different formats. I didn't even have to pay for shipping! From what I understand, the promo has ended, but it looks like they may bring it back. More information can be found here.
Google Voice Add-on for Firefox
There is a great add-on for Firefox that I use with my Google Voice account. Once integrated with Firefox you can simply click on a phone number in your browser and initiate a call using google voice.
You can find it here.
I had trouble figuring out the add-on at first because I didn't know where to look for it. Once installed you can configure it in the bottom right-hand corner of your browser: