I hate to have to fly a banner like the one on the left, but after a careful analysis and period of experimentation with Google Voice – I’m not very happy. Google Voice promises (amongst other things) free domestic calls, free SMS, integration with your Android phone and much more. Being a big fan of Google’s product offering (and a bigger fan of their free price tag) I was eager to unleash the fury and excitement of Google Voice on my new HTC Droid Incredible. Let’s do this!
Installing GV is very easy, just like every other application I’ve installed on the droid. It just works. Nice. Setup is also very easy especially if you have a GV account already – which I did. So now I am ready to make “free calls”. I set my phone to dial using GV and off I went. People got calls from my GV number, I told people “use this number now”. I enjoyed the ability to send, receive and archive my txt messages online. I enjoyed being able to route and re-route my phone to different handsets/phones. Life was good. I was so cool! I was taking it to Verizon Wireless! Soon – I would be well on my way to reducing my minutes and cutting back on my txt plan. WRONG!
Let me start breaking down the wrongness of this situation. First – I will take the ‘blame’ for not reading and understanding correctly on this one. SMS – or Short Message Service is for SIMPLE messages, most of us would call text or txt messages. It does not include or incorporate photos, videos, fancy font emails and is limited to 160 characters. (Google will split long messages for you, which is very cool!) To send photos or other multimedia content, you need MMS or Multimedia Messaging Service. Ultimately – that is ok – because I still have messaging on my phone. It’s not a big deal – but my contacts could/should/would need to know “Send pictures to THIS number, send TXT to THAT number”. My dad, my wife and a few others could keep up with that – but well – why should my friends have to stomach that burden? I take the blame for not understanding what the service offered, I do not take the blame for them not incorporating MMS. It would be HUGE and make the service much more valuable – but this is Google VOICE not Google MESSAGE so one does have to wonder why they are so closely incorporated and tied. Probably because phones are no longer about just voice. We digress…
The second shortcoming – Google is going to take the blame until somebody else helps me understand it is Verizon’s, my droids, or anybody else we can blame. “Free domestic calling” uses your minutes – if you are connected to a mobile network. I was under the impression that when connected to a 3G network your calls would be data – not minutes. Verizon has unlimited data – and as such – I could circumvent my minutes from being used and I would again be happy joyous and FREE! – WRONG! Every Google Voice dialed call IMMEDIATELY calls a “secret” access number. This number then automagically forwards on your call the number you called, using your GV digits. All this is GREAT – except – that “secret” access number changes all the time. With our family plan, we could add all the GV access numbers we find, but we only get 10 Friends and Family numbers – and it would eat them up quick. Verizon to Verizon calls now use minutes. For this reason, I think the system is a #fail. Now – having said that – if I were making international calls, I would only be using minutes and paying low international rates through GV, which would be cool – but I don’t call internationally very often (I don’t remember my last international call, to be honest).
I probably shouldn’t mention this – as it was only one outage – but about a week into my ‘trial’ they had one of their first outages. It’s a long story, but Google doesn’t have a huge support staff for their free/beta applications. I managed to find a guy that works for Google on twitter. He made a few calls and got people working on it. The unfortunate thing was, nobody could send/receive calls. Outages happen, but that tarnished my impression.
The final thing I need/want to complain about – for years, if you didn’t have enough cell signal to call, you could txt. No bars… you can txt and tell people “Bad cell!”, but not with Google Voice. If you aren’t connected well, you aren’t txting. If you were trying to hide your personal cell number, this could be a problem.
- I have a permanent number, I can forward to any phone in the US and you can reach me.
- I can txt from the web, meaning I do0n’t have to type so much on my phone.
- It will integrate with my droid.
- Integration uses minutes.
- SMS… not MMS (which really was me getting excited about something that wasn’t there, but well – It would be cool if it had it!)
- Outage – but Verizon has had them before too.
I continue to use GV on a regular basis. I consider myself an experience phone/computer user and can tell you that I do thing you probably never wanted to do with your phone and/or computer. Would I recommend you use GV? Maybe. If you are prepared to explain why you just sent a txt from a number that’s “not yours”… sure. If you need some subsegment of the functionality – go for it. If you have no idea in the world why I just wrote almost 1000 words about a telephone that has google and a web page involved – I’m proud of you for reading this far! Do not bother with Google Voice!
It’s a system with a lot of potential, it just isn’t ready for prime time. I wonder if that is why they say it is still in beta?