Google Voice Mobile App: Hands-On Test Drive
Google Voice is a service that simplifies connecting with multiple phones. It gives you a single phone number that rings your home phone, cell phone, office phone -- however many phones you have. It's also a simple tool for managing voice messages. Now, Google Voice has a Web app that simplifies accessing the service on an iPhone or Palm WebOS device. The new app works very well.
To run the app, just go to m.google.com/voice in your mobile Web browser. Nothing to download and install. You need to be a user of Google Voice to run it, of course.
I tried it on my iPhone 3G. When I visited the Google Voice mobile page, the software automatically recognized that I was already logged in to Google, and asked me which phone I was using.
I tapped the selection for my iPhone, and the browser showed me a fully functional phone dialpad.
You can tap numbers to dial, or spell out the name of a contact. Alternately, you can access your Google Voice address book by tapping the appropriate icon at the top of the screen.
One particularly impressive feature is that the tool generates its own list of your favorite numbers, which it calls "Top." For me, the "Top" list includes our favorite pizza place and Mediterranean restaurant. These numbers are ranked higher than my brothers' phones. And The Top list doesn't include my wife's phone number at all. I find all of this this deeply disturbing.
I've blotted out personal information in the screenshots; unfortunately that makes a couple of them look like the FBI files on Marilyn Monroe. Can't be helped.
When you dial a number from Google Voice mobile, it first tells your iPhone to dial a local number for Google Voice, and then Google Voice connects to the recipient. That's a little more convenient than the way Google Voice works from your desktop -- and the way it used to work from the iPhone -- which is that it dials your phone first, and then, when you pick up, it dials the person you're calling. Under the old system, your phone rang when you placed a call, which was mildly annoying. The new system fixes that problem. Neat.
The downside of the new system is that you're still using voice minutes from your cell provider to make calls. And you can't use Google Voice with an iPod touch, or an iPhone without a cell plan.
Because the call is coming from Google Voice, the recipient's Caller ID shows your Google Voice number rather than your cell phone number. That's important to those of us who want to route all our incoming calls through Google Voice; it's better if the people you call never see any numbers for you other than your Google Voice number.
The new way of calling is slightly confusing at first, though. When you tap the button to place a call, the iPhone displays a pop-up asking for permission to place the call. The number it shows is not the number you asked to dial, which is confusing at first, but after a couple of uses you'll figure it out.