Google.com/Voice GrandCentral for the Rest of Us
Thanks to a tip from Brandon, I just noticed that GrandCentral.com becomes Google.com/Voice very soon. I'm hoping this means it becomes open to the general public soon, because I'd love to have a unified phone solution in my life again. I waited too long to sign up for GrandCentral before Google closed it to new accounts, although I did put myself in the queue to get a number should they ever get around to reopening. Looks like they are reopening, under the new Google Voice brand.
Why do I want Google Voice? Several reasons:
It eliminates many long distance calls, because you can set up a call from your computer, which then dials both your phone and the phone of the person you are calling. Since the call is passed through a local extension, you don't get charged for long distance. This doesn't matter to me on my cell phone or at home, but from the road, having the service call my hotel room phone locally might save a bunch of money.
A central phone number means not having to worry about updating your contacts when you change cell phone providers. It's much easier to give out one number that is not device dependent. Yes number portability helps with that, but when your number isn't tied to a specific device, you no longer need to worry about where you are when you expect a call. It makes a phone number more like email - if you've got access to any phone, you can get your calls.
Call screening is another handy option. I want to always get calls from people I know, but I also want to easily filter people I don't know. Call screening helps with this because you get to find out who is on the other end before you take the call.
ListenIn takes call screening a step further, allowing you to listen to the voicemail message someone is leaving as they leave it.
Personalized Greetings allow you to use one number, have a professional greeting for business contacts and something more informal for family and friends.
At one point I had all these features with a pay service, but I routinely ran up a huge bill because people would call my 800 number to avoid their own long distance charges. I'm willing to pay for a service like this, but I'd rather not have to foot the bill for other people's calls. Google Voice seems like the perfect bridge between the two. One word of caution - if you have Gmail and Google Voice, that's a whole ton of your communication data being stored by one company, although possibly no different than the old days of ATT.