So, one of my goals (not sure if I included it) is to become more familiar with GoogleVoice. I do some online teaching for K12/Aventa and they require a GoogleVoice account for calling students and parents. I didn’t end up using it much, and when I did it seemed somewhat confusing. I played around with it a bit tonight, and here’s what I discovered / firmed up.

1. When you dial a number from your GoogleVoice number, it calls you first. Yes, you hit ‘connect’ and from your GoogleVoice page a phone rings on your email page (in the same Google account). This seems counterintuitive (wouldn’t it just dial the number, as a phone would?), but it also seems to fall into that category of the baseline has to be counterintuitive so a more advanced feature can work. That more advanced feature is that you can route your outgoing GoogleVoice calls through your cell phone (or land line). This gives you the convenience of a GoogleVoice number (if for no other reason the anonymity / lack of personal information) with the convenience / predictability of your physical cell phone or land line. I get this, I suppose, but I also feel like it’s very Microsoftian in that Google is trying to figure out too hard what I want. The rerouting is a nice option, but I’m not sure it’s necessary to then prevent direct calling from GoogleVoice. I don’t need Google (or Microsoft) trying to predict what I want and overcomplicating things because of it. It would seem that ultimately this is an unnecessary step.

2a. When someone calls your GoogleVoice number, one of two things happen depending on your settings. If the call rings directly to your GoogleVoice account, it goes to voicemail; your GoogleVoice account does not ‘ring’ the way a normal phone does. I suppose this makes sense; you don’t want your computer ringing in the middle of something. On the other hand, you are interrupted by so many other things: email pings when it comes in, your cell phone rings, etc. All of these of course can be turned off or turned down, so why can’t GoogleVoice have the same option? As far as I can tell, there is no direct ring option. Again, I get this, but also again I feel like it’s Google trying to predict too much what I would want and not letting me customize enough.

2b. When someone calls your GoogleVoice number and you have a number set to which the call forwards, that phone (e.g. your cell phone, your land line) rings. When you pick up, if call screening is activated (which is the default setting), a recording asks you if you want to accept the call from [x], and the caller, as part of the call, is asked to identify themselves which is then played back to you. If you accept the call, it is connected. If you do not, it is sent to voicemail. This seems the selling point of GoogleVoice: control over calls in a way that the cell phone / land line does not give you. Is it worth the rest of the trouble? See my conclusion below.

3. Voicemails are sent to your email as both a notification and with a transcript (the transcript can be toggled off in Settings). The email notification is nice; the transcripts stink. They are barely intelligible. I don’t necessarily expect them to be, but that might fall into the category of don’t debut the technology until it’s at least passable, which at this point it’s not.

4. Text messages work similarly. They can be forwarded to your email (which defaults off in Settings), and you have a separate ‘inbox’ on your GoogleVoice page for texts and voicemail.

In the end, I’m willing to stick with GoogleVoice and see how it goes. No trouble to do so, but I’m certainly not sold. I guess it surprises me that Google, for all of its forward thinking, designed a service that for the most part is designed to be used away from your computer. For better or worse, I’m realizing that the more I can do from my laptop, the more efficient I can be. I don’t want a new number for my cell phone or land line. I want my computer to become my phone. I’m on it all the time; why wouldn’t I use it as a phone as well? I’m surprised that Google isn’t tending GoogleVoice more toward this and that they are tailoring it more to third party devices or technologies.

I’m trying, GoogleVoice, but you’re not making it easy. More to come.