Sep 022009
Authors: Glen Pfeiffer, Ryan Gibbons

Go ahead and raise your hand if you would enjoy having a custom phone number. Now raise your other hand if you think it would be cool to have your voicemail texted to you. Raise a foot if you think it would be useful to listen in as a voicemail is being left and have the option to answer it.

If your appendages are all up in the air, put them down now so people will stop staring. If they aren’t, stop reading because if you don’t care about these neat features, then you won’t care about Google Voice.

Ahhhh, now that we’ve just got our core audience left we can vent a little nerdiness. Ma1nfr4m3! 1nt3rn3t pr0t0c01! Un1f0rm R350urc3 L0c4t0r! Whoo. Sorry about that.

Google Voice, originally called Grand Central before Google bought it, is essentially a second (free for calls inside the U.S.) phone line. That means to take advantage of all its features you will need an existing phone line — land or cell.

One of the most talked about features with the service is that you can set up all the lines you have (example: home, work or cell) to all ring when your Google Voice number is dialed. And, even better, you can set certain numbers to only ring on certain lines.

The first thing you get to do upon signing up is pick your own number! This shouldn’t be taken lightly as this decision will cause people to judge you, likely for the rest of your natural life. We decided to go with (970) IMA-SEXY (stalker disclaimer — we can mess with you more than you can mess with us).

Now after you’ve made this monumental decision, you’ll get to choose what phone number your Google Voice line should forward to; we’d suggest a cell phone because it’s a little hard to read the forwarded texts on your land line. Our first impulse was to print up a few hundred business cards with our new numbers and start handing them out to the ladies, but instead, we decided to get to know the features a little first.

Probably the most interesting (or maybe we should say humorous) feature is Voicemail Transcripts. When someone leaves a voicemail, Google tries to transcribe it into text. A sweet concept, but in practice it falls pretty short. Unless someone is reading their message from a script, the transcriptions usually end up looking like drunken Mad Lib. A short example: “don’t use this for the video” turned into “sunny this further with you.”

Some of the other features include call recording, conference calling, really cheap international calls, call screening and more.

Of course the best way to take advantage of Google Voice (no, it’s not to get it drunk) on your cell phone is to use the mobile app. But sadly, that’s only available for Blackberry and Android devices. Why did the iPhone get picked last in this kickball game? Apple rejected the app — many point fingers at AT&T for possibly pressuring Apple to reject it due to its free texting feature. Thankfully, enough people complained and the FCC is now looking into the whole matter. Hopefully, in time, we’ll see a compromise, and for now those of us with iPhones will just have to survive on the watered down Web-based app.

By now we’re sure you’re so excited you’re getting up in the middle of your lecture to go sign up, but don’t give up on that Sudoku yet — Google Voice is currently by invite only. However, you can request an invite and wait for Google to contact you. It took us almost a year to get in. But word on the street is things are moving a little faster.

Columnists Glen Pfeiffer and Ryan Gibbons can only be reached by passenger pigeon this week. E-mail the pigeon at, and it will get to us eventually.

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