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.
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.