An iPhone + Google Voice Solution.
For the last 18 months, I’ve been using Google Voice as my exclusive business number. I had it printed on our sweet business cards. Aside from having it forward to my personal cell number, though, it wasn’t doing much for me. In my defense, for much of that time it was essentially worthless when paired with an iPhone. Only recently did a fully-featured HTML client appear, and it wasn’t until earlier this month that Apple finally approved the long-awaited and, at least for me, highly anticipated iPhone app.
I started messing around with the app more as an experiment than anything else, until it occurred to me that I might have in front of me a real solution for free, unlimited text messaging. Sure, apps allegedly providing that already exist, but they’re buggy, poorly designed, and don’t provide a dedicated number like Google Voice.
After a few weeks of testing the app, I’m close to pushing all-in and canceling my AT&T text plan. I may even start the unpleasant process of updating my friends and family on the new number. Consider this, then, my official pros and cons list for anyone considering running Google Voice as their primary number on an iPhone.
Okay, to be fair, there are many reasons why Google Voice is something to fear rather than embrace. If we’re going to do it, we should at least take an objective look at the potential consequences. I see two major categories of Google Voice + iPhone issues. The first are fears about what may happen; the second issues with the current setup. Let’s take each in turn.
Is Google going to force me (or people who call me) to listen to ads? This may be my biggest concern, so I don’t want to dismiss it lightly. ReadWriteWeb reported on this possibility a year-and-a-half ago. Given that it hasn’t happened yet, I’m inclined to believe it won’t. Still, you have to wonder how Google plans to make money from this service. It can’t be cheap to buy up all those numbers, handle the infrastructure, etc. It’s not out of the question that they keep running it at a loss, but that doesn’t sound sustainable to me. If Google begins injecting ads, I’m out. Immediately. I’d rather pay than be, at best, inconvenienced or, at worst, utterly creeped out.
Or, Will Google start charging for the Google Voice features? If it was any other company, I’d say chances are yes. As an ad-based company, however, Google has shown nearly complete unwillingness to charge for their products. They give away entire operating systems on that principle. Aside from Google Apps for your domain, I can’t think of single instance of Google charging for a product. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but my prediction is targeted text ads in the Google Voice interface is ultimately what we’ll see. I’m not looking forward to it, but it could be a lot worse.
So will I ever have to deal with an outage, like Gmail had? Yes. Google Voice has been down several times. I know, none of us wants to be stranded without phone service or unable to make an important business call. It’s a real problem. One that will prevent people from taking Google Voice seriously until its resolved. Still, at this point, you have your fallback number to make calls — at least until Google VoiPce is unveiled.
What about Apple? Will they kick Google Voice out of the store or prevent new features? Until just a few weeks ago, this was not only a fear but an actuality. Thankfully, Apple has backed off their hostile position. After using Google Voice for a few weeks, though, I can understand their initial reasoning. I’ll get more into that when I discuss issues with Google’s implementation, but suffice it to say having Google Voice on the iPhone is both a usability headache and competitive concern. My gut feeling, though, is that Apple won’t try to stuff the horses back into the bag or herd the cats back into the barn. What’s done is done. Google Voice on the iPhone is here to stay. My bigger concern is that if Android begins to “win,” Google will allow the iPhone app to stagnate. If that is realistically the worst case scenario, I can live with it.
If all else fails, Google offers the ability to port your number away from Google Voice for no charge. You can always run sheepishly back into a traditional carrier’s welcoming arms.
A combination of Apple policies and Google user interface and programming errors make running Google Voice on the iPhone less than perfect. To be clear, the Google Voice app is far from bad, but you know with greater leniency on Apple’s part or more attention and taste on Google’s part, it could be something amazing. ((This pretty much defines the Apple v. Google dynamic. It’s tempting to imagine Google’s fully-featured, cloud-first mentality with Apple’s design chops. I’m not sure we’ll ever get that exquisite combination, but both appear to be making in-roads into the other’s territory.)) That said, here’s where the Google Voice app doesn’t quite stack up:
Two places for everything. Somebody sent you a text message? A missed phone call? A voicemail? You’ll need to hit both the Google Voice app and the native Phone and Messages apps to be sure you have all your bases covered. From what I hear, Google Voice can hook into the native Android calling and texting applications. I can’t see Apple ever taking that tack. If you want to avoid doubling up, you’ll need to convert to Google Voice full-time, which means …
Worse everything. Running Google Voice exclusively is like living in a tiny Android bubble in an iPhone world. Text messages can take multiple taps to be marked as read, the app launches slowly and occasionally will hang or crash completely, and, as a rule, things are just less pretty, responsive, and well thought out. Again, it’s not bad, it’s just … less good.
Yep, you’re still using minutes from AT&T. If you thought you could get away with some kind of data + wi-fi only VoIP experience, we’re not there yet. Google Voice uses your cell phone provider’s minutes. It’s not so much a bug as it is a missing feature. As far as I know, you still need a voice plan from AT&T just to get data, so there are problems with that approach on both ends of the spectrum.
The voice menu dark ages. Call screening is a nice feature, but activating it with a voice menu is a frustrating step backwards. First, when you receive a call, you either you get a real number (but don’t know they’re calling your Google Voice number) or you get your Google Voice number (and don’t know who’s calling). Next, when you answer the call, you need to hit 1 to accept the call or another arbitrary number to initiate one of the remaining features. You know what would be nice? Programmable software buttons.
Outgoing calls appear in normal Phone app as strange numbers. If you’re not ready to commit to a monogamous Google Voice relationship, using the Phone app is going to leave you squinting at various Google intermediate numbers used to connect you to your eventual destination when you make calls through Google Voice. It’s an annoyance that you can either live with or switch to Google Voice completely. For my part, I might just be ready to go Google 24/7, which seems like as good a reason as any to embark on a tour of Google Voice’s advantages today and potential advantages over the next few years.
I’m ready. Tell me why I should love Google Voice.
Okay, I mentioned the unlimited free texting, right? Give your Google Voice number to your friends, and cancel that ridiculous $20 per month AT&T text plan. I expect this notion of separate charges for text, voice, and data eventually to be forgotten like a bad dream, but we’re still living it right now. Until AT&T and Co. wake up, grab a Google Voice number and enjoy a few extra apps per month or whatever it is you want to do with your newly-found discretionary income.
Enhanced call control. With Google Voice, you get a virtual secretary to filter your calls, asking each unknown caller his or her name, ability to enforce Do Not Disturb hours, and handful of ways to be notified of missed calls and voicemails. For me, these features are useful, but I’m more excited about what might be as the technology matures than I am about the current crop. The only one useful to me today is call screening for unknown numbers.
Text or call from anywhere. Wrap Google Voice in a Fluid app, and, voilà, you are now texting via a dedicated desktop client. As someone who enjoyed connecting his AIM handle to his cell phone number, I can tell you that typing a message on a computer keyboard and having it land in someone’s SMS inbox is not only magical, it’s, uh, a whole lot easier.
The big wins today are free texting, the ability to interact with your Google Voice number and history anywhere via the browser, and a smattering of additional call filters. For me, those are enough to warrant re-structuring my phone usage to make Google Voice primary. If you’re still on the fence though, watch for these features. I can’t promise they are coming, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
- VoIP. Right now, Google Voice is no phone, no calls. Competing with Skype by allowing calls using the Internet rather than the cell tower seems a given someday. With Google Talk already in the fold, it’s presumably a business question and not a technology one. ((Though, one wonders, if Apple might not play games again with the approval process. One never knows.)) Update: Lex reminds me you can already make Google Voice calls without using minutes, just not through the Google Voice site. You’ll need to install this plug-in and use Gmail.
- Useful call and voicemail transcripts. Advertised as a feature, transcripts are more of a joke. Getting every third word correct is a recipe for disaster. If the technology can improve, though, I see a lot of utility in archived transcriptions.
- The coup de grâce for me would be the ability to add multiple Google Voice lines per account, thereby enabling separate personal and business lines.
The iPhone and Google Voice. A Reasonably Happy Marriage.
All is not connubial bliss between Google Voice and the iPhone. There are hiccups. Application oddities, service failures, unfulfilled desires, and latent fears. Yet with a native application capable of push notifications, Google Voice is a real alternative to AT&T’s onerous texting fees. It’s a powerful tool; one which has the potential to finally crack the gouging cell phone oligopoly. For that, and a few extra bucks in my pocket each month, I’m willing to take a chance on Google Voice. ((Just know that I’m fickle and could switch back to an all-Apple experience just as quickly.))
This is an aside relating to the “Text from Anywhere” benefit, but most cell carriers associate an email address and / or an IM handle with every number they have.
For example, you can text AT&T subscribers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hmm, I think you missed by far the biggest downside of the GV app for me personally, which is that it will only connect to the iPhone’s own contacts list not all my Google contacts. How crazy is that? And there’s not even a preference to switch it?
Second, a bunch of your hypothetical objections are just that. You can switch the number to another carrier if they ever do anything as hairbrained and unlikely as inserting ads. I don’t get how you can ding a service for an imaginary way it might get worse some day.
And finally, I’m not sure I understand the complaint about GV text messages. The app pops up a notification with the text of the text on the iPhone and one click takes me to the app, a second tap to the respond box. Is your complaint that second tap? Seems pretty darn minor.
Actually, the Google Voice app for iPhone *is* bad. Yes, it’s ugly. Yes, it’s unrefined. But it’s also just painful to use. An OK button to hit after every text message you send? Seriously??? Push notifications for received texts appearing minutes before the message actually appears in the app itself (if they appear at all)? Yeah, that makes for some interesting “real time” conversations via texting.
Google should just buy Kik (or someone) and be done with it. The Google Voice app blows. I’m glad I’m not on Android.
AT&T offers its A-List, which lets you specify up to 10 phone numbers that are part of your mobile-to-mobile minutes, the unlimited minutes that do not go against your monthly allotment. Just specify your Google Voice number on the A-List and configured GV to display your GV number on incoming calls.
What about MMS?
I take it you must not send photos via MMS much correct? This is something that has stopped my from completely using Google Voice for messaging. I send lots of not only photo, but audio messages in this way. So until Google figures that out, I’ll just wait on switching over.
I use gvoice differently as my business number. When I call from my iPhone out of the office, I just call from that number. Inside the house/office, though, where AT&T seems unable to provide a steady signal, I use my iPhone & GV Mobile + as a dialer for my landline handset. I can’t seem to make the free google app do that (ring the landline) – is it even possible? I thought about always using the gvoice number even from my cell, but then wondered why it was necessary…what really is the difference if people have both numbers?
The good thing about the gvoice number is it’s portability – working out of the house, I didn’t need to add an additional line, and if I move to an actual space, I can just change where the number forwards to. It’s been very cost effective for starting up my business.
I use 3jam.com which offers similar functionality to GV but costs ~$5/mo. I ported my cell number to them (since GV still does not port in) and so far it’s worked okay. They do allow multiple “lines” or “virtual numbers” per account, however, they haven’t branched out into iOS apps and their website is not optimized for HTML5/mobile, and their payment system makes very little sense. Unlike Google they can forward VOIP over a variety of voice IM/chat clients such as Skype, so that incoming minutes are nearly free (see: “OpenSky”).
Currently my 3jam forwards to GV (as their voicemail system better integrates with Gmail) and for making outgoing calls I find Skype Out to be the best call quality using wifi (esp. with the iPod Touch) and Skype masks your (old) cell number in the caller ID. Skype has a $3/mo unlimited outgoing calls subscription model now. So for about $8/mo I kept my old cell number, don’t pay for SMSs, and have unlimited outgoing calls.
There is a new free app for iOS which does allow VOIP using GChat, called “Talkatone” search for it using the iOS App Store. It works, but again sound quality is an issue (it’s more SIP like) but does allow you to receive/make GV calls on an iPod Touch as the new GV App is iPhone only. At one point I thought the whole iPad microSIM in the iPhone4 and only paying $25/mo w/ the 2GB data plan was the way to go, but from most reports 3G VOIP calling is pretty spotty, but if you don’t use a lot of cell minutes a prepaid phone would work, especially if you can bypass the carriers’ voicemail and us GV.
Great post, I too have bumped my ATT SMS plan back to the 200/month for $5 and started using the Google Voice app almost exclusively, but it is a pretty crashy and disjointed app. Hopefully improvements are coming.
I notice some call quality issues when receiving calls over Voice to mobile and even our work PBX (VOIP).
I thus prefer to give my private number to my personal contacts, for whom, the call quality is important.
For work and business contacts, I give my GV number, and it’s great. I even put it on my emails as I can black/whitelist and even just turn off forwarding if I want to be undisturbed.
For SMS, GV is perfect.
Ah yes, a topic very much on my mind lately.
Unlike most, I went ahead and pulled the trigger on completely committing to Google Voice, but over time I’m questioning that decision.
My pros are:
1. Texting from anywhere via website.
2. Searchable text repository.
3. Transcribed voicemails (albeit poorly)
1. No MMS
2. Sucky iPhone app.
3. Splitting up text messages when the iphone can handle bigger.
4. Slight delays in text message receipt.
5. Google keeps changing their middle man numbers.
This last one is the most important. I jumped fully into Google Voice because of something that was ominously called the “Power of 406” when GV first went live. The concept was that when someone texts you, you can save the 406 number they are assigned to your contact and then exclusively call/text that number and they will never know you are using a service.
The inconvenience was only having all of my top contacts send one text message to the new number. It just worked after that.
The problem? Google has now been changing those numbers on me all willy nilly. I know have texts coming from all over that I can’t identify easily because the number changed and the person isn’t in my Google contact list.
The reason for this was their circuits were being overloaded to they started shifting them around. That’s all well and good but it destroyed the one thing that made the system usable.
I keep hoping they’ll allow people to assign these middle man numbers…and guarantee they won’t change.
Now I don’t know what to do…when added altogether it’s looking more and more like I should just give up.
You have left out its biggest selling point for me, very cheap international dialing.
My most called numbers are in the UK, so I can now connect to a land line in London for 2c a minute (plus of course my ATT minutes on this end) this is very very cheap and it is fairly well integrated into my contacts so as long as I have the correct country prefix with my international numbers it is a very good solution for calling out of the US.
Through A Glass Darkly :: Using Google Voice on the iPhone
[…] and a few extra bucks in my pocket each month, I’m willing to take a chance on Google Voice. via fullstopinteractive.comThis article pretty well sums up my impressions. Some awesome telephony features, some cool […]
“Give your Google Voice number to your friends, and cancel that ridiculous $20 per month AT&T text plan. I expect this notion of separate charges for text, voice, and data eventually to be forgotten like a bad dream, but we’re still living it right now. ”
Sorry, but everyone outside of the US reading this has just wet themselves laughing. Separate text, voice and data plans. Really? In the 21st century? Sounds to me like there’s a good reason that Google Voice is US-only right now, ‘cos if they tried to launch it in Europe it’d just be a big fat shrug…
You didn’t mention one of my favorite features of Google Voice, which is that you can make calls from your GV number from any of your phones. I use this all the time – no one knows my desk phone number, but when I’m sitting at my desk I can still get the benefit of the improved call quality that comes with using the land line. You do have to use the website to do this, because the official GV app doesn’t ask which phone you want to use – but since I’m sitting at my desk anyway, what does it matter?
@Aaron Pressman – I was upset about that too, until I discovered that Google offers ActiveSync connectivity to your Google contacts. So if you want the Google Voice app to use your Google contacts, just set up the two to sync automatically.
Instructions are here:
Of course, if for some reason you wanted to keep two different copies of your contacts, this doesn’t help you. And it does annoy me that the GV app won’t search secondary contact sources, like an Exchange Global Address List that the iPhone dialer can search just fine.
Don’t you need an AT&T SMS plan so you can receive the silent SMS that helps initiate FaceTime calls? That’s if you use FaceTime.
“Still, you have to wonder how Google plans to make money from this service. It can’t be cheap to buy up all those numbers, handle the infrastructure, etc. It’s not out of the question that they keep running it at a loss, but that doesn’t sound sustainable to me.”
Google does make money off of the service via international calling and the float off of $ credit you keep in your GV account if you choose to use this feature. This alone likely makes it sustainable, although I’m sure they have other revenue streams as well.
You should try GV Connect. Loads faster than Google’s app with a better UI (not perfect but better). It also handle multiple accounts. (It doesn’t do push notifications though so you need to keep Google’s app on your iPhone too).
I use GV for my main business line at my law office and it works great (except for the occasional outage). I would NEVER use it as my main personal number though, for the simple fact that it can’t handle MMS.
The integration on Android is so much better than on the iPhone, that I’m currently experimenting with carrying a second cell phone that runs Android. The GV experience is much more seamless on Android, and having the second phone solves the problem of not knowing if someone called my personal cell, or my GV number (if my iPhone rings, it’s a personal call, if the Android phone rings, it’s business). I just don’t know if the extra $70+ per month is worth it (my second phone is on Sprint, because their service is much better here in Austin than AT&T’s).
For anyone who’s really considering going all-in with Google Voice, I think they should probably go with an Android phone. It’s just too limited on the iPhone.
Couple of things:
Gv mobile + Is a better app than the official because of it’s features.
Boxcar gives beautiful push delivery of texts and transcripts to all your iOS devices simultaneously.
An iPhone + Google Voice Solution. « Invisible Links Blog
[…] here to read the rest: An iPhone + Google Voice Solution. :apple, defense, essentially-worthless, finally-approved, html, month, recently-did, […]
You might look into Line2. $9.95/month gets you unlimited VOIP calling (over wi-fi, *without* using AT&T minutes), unlimited text messages, and is unique, as far as I know, in not booting you out of the app (and thus killing your call) when a call comes in on the real phone app. Instead it politely asks you which call you would like to continue with. I’ve dropped to the cheapest AT&T voice plan, and the cheapest SMS plan, and use the Line2 app as my “home” number. It’s especially convenient since AT&T has poor service in my home, but Line2 allows incoming calls, over wi-fi, when I have no bars and even when the Line2 app is not running.
Also: no ads, and no creepiness. Try it.
links for 2010-12-02 | The 'K' is not silent
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I’ve got both a Droid and an iPhone, and I can say that the GV experience on Android is infinitely better than the iPhone one. The integration is what really makes it. I’m almost up on my $70ish/mo contract on my Droid, and while I’ll be glad to ditch that, using my gvoice number is WAY harder on iPhone than it needs to be. There are some jb apps that let you do it on the iPhone, but I haven’t tested any of them overmuch.
I use Google Voice because I hate paying AT&T money for a feature that should be free – unlimited texting. And, being able to text friends right from Chrome on my MacBook (or any other computer I’m using) is amazing and simple.
Lovely post! I, too, cancelled my 200 text/month w/ ATT, thanks too the GV app. Now we can have unlimited, free texting. ;-) …As noted above, the app is kinda glitchy, but 9 times outta 10, it works seamlessly. ps- I also would like to see MMS added to the inevitable update.
Using Google Voice on the iPhone | rondafe01
[…] Source: http://www.fullstopinteractive.com/blog/2010/12/an-iphone-google-voice-solution/ […]
To use VOIP calling using your Google Voice account on your iPhone, you can use Talkatone (http://www.talkatone.com/). I know the interface isn’t all that great but it just works. More over it’s only the first version.
[…] An iPhone + Google Voice Solution. […]
Iphone mix with google voice? Disaster made in heaven! Let me know when its working one day. I do wish though that Apple was more into open source stuff.