Transcripts! Say it again: Transcripts! Imagine a secretary who listens to voice mail and sends a typed transcript of each message. Golden. The Google secretary is a bit hard of hearing, sort of like getting phone messages jotted by a grandmother. But almost all the transcripts get the gist. And reading is so much faster than listening. This is a service that's been available by paying third parties to intercept cellphone calls. Now it will be available for all phones, free.
Do not disturb. Users can say which phones can be rung during what hours. The Google number can ring all of them during the day—but maybe only the home phone during the evening. No more taking phones off the hook to prevent them from ringing.
Do not bother. Control freaks can even decide which callers ring which phones. They can also organize them into groups for simplicity, such as "family" calls that ring all phones and "business" calls that connect only to an office line. Or users can send certain callers directly to voice mail. They can even block callers who get a "number no longer in service" message. No muss, no fuss.
[See how you can hide behind a virtual number from Vumber.]
Call screening returns. Remember the sly luxury of listening as someone left a message on an answering machine? A quick grab of the phone, and the lucky caller would discover you were actually in and feel flattered that the call was taken. It's back with Google Voice, which lets users listen as someone leaves a voice mail. Hit one button, and surprise the caller with your generous and immediate attention.
Call capture debuts. Until now, recording a call has usually meant fumbling for a recorder that adds to the cable spaghetti on desks. With Google Voice, push a button, and the audio capture starts. The recording lands quickly in a Google Voice mailbox for your listening pleasure. So far, Google can record only incoming calls. But stay tuned.
Text that roams free. Like voice calls, text messages sent to a Google number can arrive at any phone designated to receive them. For those who want to avoid the cost of text messages, they can be read at the Google Voice site. Text messages also can be sent from the Google Voice site.
Calls that roam free. Google Voice makes it easy to transfer incoming calls between phones, say between a cellphone and a land line. Simply hit a button while in a conversation, and the other phones connected to the Google Voice number begin to ring. Pick up one, and continue the conversation. A call answered at home can continue on a mobile handset as you head out the door. Not available yet for outgoing calls.
Free calls. Google Voice users can call U.S. phone numbers for no charge, which is cheaper even than Skype. Like Skype and other Internet calling services, Google Voice also offers rates on international calls that are lower than most land lines and much cheaper than those offered by wireless carriers.
[See how MagicJack offers calls that are almost free.]