Google Voice lives!

I’ve been a big fan of Google Voice for years. I first started using it when my office was in a sub-basement. Google Voice was a way for me to text with my wife without having to play submarine by going topside every so often. It also made it so that I could give people one number that would catch me in my office or on my cell phone. The ability to make phone calls with my computer (on the rare occasion I make phone calls) was also appealing. But as time wore on, Google Voice got no love.

Over time, people began including me in group texts or sending me pictures. Google Voice didn’t handle that well. I got the pictures in my email, but the group texts were basically individual messages. As Google developed new communication tools and Voice got no love, I figured it was always going to be that way. I gave in and started using Hangouts for my Google Voice messages.

This got me the ability to use group messages and MMS, but it meant always leaving myself signed into Hangouts on my phone (I could have messages forwarded to my carrier number, but meh). I had avoided this because I didn’t want to always be available, but it turned out to not be that big of an issue. Then last month Google announced an update to Voice. Holy crap, it’s still alive!

Once the new app reached my phone, I switched back. I’ve been using it for a week or so and I have to say that I like it. The new UI looks great and the mobile app is much quicker than Hangouts to find the person or number I’m typing.

There are three main drawbacks. First, it turns out that I really liked having my SMS/MMS messages trated like IMs in my Gmail window, but that doesn’t work anymore. Second, when using voice commands to send a text, it still uses my carrier number instead of my Google Voice number. This is apparently just a missing feature (it was a problem in Hangouts, too), but I hope Google fixes it. I don’t usually speak to my phone, but if it behaved the way I wanted, I might use that feature more. Lastly, the widget disappeared. Not a big deal, but a minor annoyance.

The “classic” web interface for Google Voice.

The new web interface for Google Voice.

Google Voice is perhaps the most valuable of all Google services to me. I worried for years that they would give up on it. I worry less after this update. Hopefully they continue to put more effort into it as Hangouts becomes the abandoned project.

2 thoughts on “Google Voice lives!

  1. Your core use case (subbasement) is mine as well, as you know, but knowing that I just have to memorize one number and switch it to different cellphones, different carriers, or even to a physical phone is a win, and I am too chuffed about the news from Google.

    I’m (confused|concerned|unsure) about the messaging plans for Google. ATM, we have Voice, Hangouts, Allo, Duo, Messenger. I use Hangouts, because a) it works on desktop/laptop, which, as a developer, I spend significant amounts of time with, and b) it works with SMS, MMS (I can send pics!) and the proprietary post-Jabber post-Google-Talk thing that Hangouts is now.

    There are things that refuse to SMS with Voice, and my car insurance company uses one, which sucks, but if it gets to my provider number, so as long as I can look up (remember? Hah!) my device’s phone number, it can go through Hangouts, and I’m accepting.

    As long as I have points a and b (I don’t need the number — would be glad to drop numbers in my head for voice communication as I never need to remember a number for DNS [besides, and, which I will NEVER forget]) (and end-to-end encryption would be a nice addition), I will happily switch over to whatever Google has planned. But they have five mutually-contradictory, mostly-mobile plans. This doesn’t fill me with trust.

    Too many parentheticals. Foo.

  2. Yeah, Google is not being very clear on their long-term plans (if they even have any) for communication tools. The Google Voice update gives me hope that it has a few more years left, at least. A couple of weeks ago, I would not have been willing to publicly state that hope.

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