google voice

Google Voice Review

After five-plus years without any changes to its interface, Google Voice  has received some updates – not all of them good.

One of the changes that long-time Google Voice users will appreciate, is the ability to send and receive MMS photo messages; video attachments are not supported. You can now also send group chats via Google Voice.

Generally, the interface looks more sleek and modern with more whitespace and icons and fewer rectangular buttons. Messages are broken down by type (e.g., texts, phone calls, voicemail) and are accessible via icons on the left-hand side. Additional features and settings are available by clicking either the “Hamburger stack” menu icon at the top of the left column or the three vertical dots at the bottom of the left-hand column. They both serve the same purpose and the redundancy seems unnecessary.

For me, the things that stand out are what’s missing. You can no longer initiate a phone call from the new Web interface.  Where the old Web interface featured a “Call” button in the upper left-hand corner from which you could place a telephone call, the new “more intuitive” interface eliminates not just that button but the feature, as well.

“Settings” to customize the look and feel of some of Google Voice’s features are no longer accessible via Google’s ubiquitous gear button (usually in the upper right-hand side of the screen). Those Settings are now accessible via the Hamburger Stack or three vertical dots in the left-hand column.

This brings me to the second major missing item(s) I’m not loving about this redesign. Two of the most useful settings – that gave Google Voice some its flexibility – the ability to set a custom schedule for when calls should and should not ring through to your associated phones and a “Do Not Disturb” function are missing from the Settings menus.

The good news is that these feature have not completely disappeared – at least not yet. These features and the complete old web interface are still accessible via the Hamburger Stack or three vertical dots in the left-hand column and then selecting “Legacy Google Voice” from the list.

Google is famous for discontinuing features and functions that users do not use – so I recommend you find these and use them.

Google representatives did not reply before publication to messages seeking comment regarding the missing features and settings.

Google Voice is Google’s free telephone service offering a wide range of calling and voicemail features. The service was born with Google’s 2007 acquisition of telephone management start-up GrandCentral. Since it was relaunched as Google Voice in 2009, there have been few features added or changes made to its user interface.

Google Voice’s best-known feature is probably the ability to have an incoming call ring to multiple phones simultaneously – like a switchboard. You can configure your Google Voice number to ring your home phone, office phone, and cell phone all at the same time. This way, regardless of where you are, you can pick up the call – or let it go to voicemail. Once you pick up an incoming Google Voice call on one of those phones, that call is no longer available on the other phones it rang through to. However, while you’re on an incoming Google Voice call, you can switch the call to one of your other registered phones.

When you create a Google Voice account, you can opt to choose a number from their exiting pool (free) or you can transfer an existing number you already own into the service for a one-time $10 charge.

Google offers numbers in almost all major-markets but there are limitations. For example, Google Voice does not have numbers in the 212 area code in New York City, but does have other numbers available in the newer area codes that overlay New York City.

The service also features numerous other options to manage incoming calls and voicemail messages.

About Mark Rosch

Mark Rosch
Mark Rosch is Vice-President of Internet for Lawyers and President of its CLEseminars.com division. He’s an internationally recognized speaker and author on the subjects of using the Internet for investigative and background research. He also writes, speaks, and tweets about legal technology for firms, and on how to use cloud computing tools to improve productivity. He has co-authored numerous books and hundreds of articles on these topics and has received top industry recognition for his work.

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  • Kathryn C.

    Given that there is a real risk of Google discontinuing the ring schedule feature, are there any other services available that offer this feature? I am a solo practitioner working from home, and I’m hesitant to give out my home landline number freely. Cell phone is not a good option since I don’t get very good reception.