Hands On With Google Voice--This Is Really Cool

Importing contacts from non-Google services isn't as easy, however, and there's room for improvement here. To transfer an address book from, say, Yahoo Mail or Microsoft Outlook, you'll need to export the data to a CSV file and import it into Google Voice. While this isn't too difficult for those who know their way around a spreadsheet program like Microsoft Excel, it's not exactly seamless either. You can only import 3000 contacts at a time, which shouldn't be a problem for most users.

Unfortunately, Voicemail Transcripts is one of those features that looks great on paper but isn't ready for the real world. Here's how it works: When you receive a voicemail, Google Voice automatically transcribes it into text. These transcriptions appear in your inbox, and the service will email or text them to you if you want. Problem is, the transcriptions are often full of inaccuracies, a fact that Google admits in its tutorial.

Here's my transcription of a message I left for myself:

"Hey, Bob, just calling to give you directions to the meeting. Take the 101 exit at Fallbrook and turn right. Then take a left on Downey. The Westlake Building is at 101 Downey, and it has a green awning in front. You can't miss it. Okay, see you at five. Bye"

Here's Google Voice's transcription:

"hey bob just calling to give you directions to the meeting take the 101 accidents all work in turn right then take a left on down the the Westlake building is at 101downy and it has a green on tenyon front you can't miss it okay see you would 5 bye"

As you can see, Voicemail Transcriptions can't be trusted for relaying important information like driving directions. So in many cases you're better off listening to the original voicemail, which, of course, is easy to access as well.

Cool Call Recording

If you need to record calls for personal or business use, Google Voice is a great alternative to physical recorders that attach to a phone line. (And it's cheaper too.) To begin recording a call, simply press 4 on your phone. Once the call is complete, you can listen to the recording in Google Voice, which also saves a copy of the audio file.

This feature raises privacy concerns, of course. Depending on where you live, it may be illegal to record a call without the other party's knowledge. As a precaution, Google Voice plays a "Call recording on" message when the recording begins. When the recording stops, you hear "Call recording off."

I really like how Google implemented call recording. It's very easy to use, and the ability to archive recorded calls as you would voicemail messages is very convenient. There are some limitations, however. For instance, you can only record calls you receive on your Google Voice number. So if you get a work call that comes in via your regular business line, you can't record it. Also, you can't record calls that you initiate using Click2Call or the Return Call features on the Google Voice site.

A Great Deal

Google Voice has so many features that I've barely scratched the surface of what it can do. Is it worth trying? Absolutely. Since it's free, you've got nothing to lose by giving it a whirl.

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