I’ve been experimenting with Google Voice while traveling in the US. I would have tried it sooner, but it isn’t very UK-friendly at present.
- Free SMS to US mobiles from the browser
- Convenient browsing and searching of received/placed calls, SMS and voicemail
- Initiation of phone calls from the browser
- Unified contacts database with my Android phone (and GMail, though I don’t use it)
- Simple call routing, so I can use a fixed number when I’m in the US even though I usually pick up new a prepaid SIM on each trip
- Ability to choose a phone number through searching, to find one which is easy to remember
- Speech-to-text of voicemails (maybe just good enough to be useful)
The bad or missing:
- Requires a data connection on Android (problematic e.g. when roaming or using a prepaid/pay-as-you-go SIM), though it falls back gracefully to non-Google-Voice service
- Calls outside the US cost money (Vonage and other VOIP providers offer this for free)
- Calls can apparently only be placed between POTS lines (no softphone functionality)
- Yet another place to set my time zone. Being able to selectively block calls while I’m asleep abroad would be the killer feature for me
- Caller ID doesn’t seem fully integrated in Android: it sometimes looks like I’m on a call with myself
- Free calls within the US: people still pay for this?
- Voicemail: people still leave voicemail?
The “ah” moment came when someone gave me a phone number on IRC, and I copy/pasted it into my browser to call them.