I was one of the million-plus people who tried out Google Voice on Thursday and Friday. In case you missed it, that’s the new Gmail-related service that lets you make and receive phone calls from your computer. No big deal, you’d think, except that it’s absolutely free for any number in the U.S.
Free is always nice; but the bigger advantage is how easy it is to talk on the phone when you don’t have press the receiver up to your ear for long periods of time. With Google Voice, I use my USB headset and mike, and it’s so comfortable it’s almost like talking to someone face to face. Furthermore, with both hands free, I am able to play Internet Scrabble and read about Paris Hilton’s drug arrest as I share clever repartee with the calling party.
Another big plus: The audio is much better. I have a love-hate relationship with my iPhone; the hate part comes from the fact that it drops calls inside my house, and even when it doesn’t, I have to hold the stupid phone just so to make out what the other person is saying. As I often remark, the iPhone is a wonderful device as long as you don’t use it as a phone.
You can also receive voice-mail on your computer, of course, but Google Voice additionally transcribes the voice-mail into a text message. Not sure how useful that is, but it’s one of those gee-whiz things Google is famous for. And you may get a kick out of the inevitable transcription errors that pop up.
For months now, I’ve been procrastinating about dropping my AT&T land line. All I ever get on it are marketing calls, most of which seem to arrive when I’m sitting on the toilet. I’m paying only $30 a month for this inconvenience, but maybe Google Voice is telling me my money could be better spent elsewhere. I wonder how many others are thinking the same thing. Maybe the land line will eventually follow cable TV (are you listening, Dog the Bounty Hunter?) into well-deserved oblivion.