Google Voice on the iPhone

Yay! I got my Google Voice invite last night. I've been waiting for that for a long time. Sadly it comes just as I am finally migrating to a location with cell service, so I don't need it -as- badly but I know I will use it every day anyway. I already got my phone number assigned and was able to get one that is almost identical to my "real" cell number.

For those not in the know, this is what Google Voice provides (at a very high level) ... all of this is currently free unless otherwise noted::

1) A phone number that will ring all of your other numbers simultaneously so that you can answer from wherever you are.

2) Send and receive SMS messages using that same number (and get the messages forwarded to "real" SMS devices if you wish, but it is a bit messier since you see the GV number on the messages when forwarded). Meaning:

* unlimited SMS messages
* access your SMS messages from your smartphone using a GV app
* access your SMS messages from your not-smart phone using SMS (but not as useful)
* access those same SMS messages from the Google Voice center on any web browsing device like a PC
* SEND messages from any web-browsing device

3) Place calls using your GV number. Free for the U.S., very cheap for long distance calls. See next item for why this becomes INSANELY good for some cell users.

4) If you have a service like T-Mobile you can add your Google Voice number to your "favorites" and then never use minutes when you dial with it (meaning if you use GV to make outbound calls you can make unlimited calls from your cell number).

Sadly for AT&T users like myself we can't do this since AT&T doesn't have a "favorites" type plan. However:

5) If you have some form of free VOIP service that will give you inbound calls then you can have that number ring using Google Voice. Not too shabby ... free VOIP calls with a public phone number. But most VOIP services charge for inbound "real" phone numbers.

6) This is the killer-app part: GV has applications for most smart phones that will do various levels of the above for you on your mobile device.

For the iPhone there are 3 apps (VoiceCentral, GV Mobile/GV Mobile Free (Free doesn't do SMS), GVDialer). Unfortunately none have push notifications which means you need the app running to see things like incoming SMS messages (workarounds to follow in another post, GVDialer doesn't do SMS yet so skip it entirely in my opinion until they add it).


I know Google claims to have an iPhone app on the way. My guess is it has been done a while and Apple and AT&T are trying to stymie it as often happens. Well ... STOP THAT ...

My hopes for a Google app is that it will merge the best of the existing applications:

1) For calls we need ways to use the service with and without data access:

... GV Mobile and VoiceCentral need data connections to dial and if they have them they seem to be the most feature-rich way BUT many times we are out of data range in the mid-west. This should be the default dial method when available (or maybe let us configure it to only work when on WIFI, etc, since 3G can be spotty at best in places).

... GVDialer allows you to dial calls without data. I think it must just place a normal call and use timers to send the dialout codes. Seems to work good though, just slower, and would be WONDERFUL for being in no-data areas.

2) SMS and Voicemail MUST ... absolutely must ... have Push Notifications. Email notification isn't good enough since we will often have times that we want Email off or at least not on Push to save battery (OS3 push notifications are significantly less network traffic than email push because with email push you are polling multiple accounts and sending more data back and forth). This would allow GV SMS to completely replace SMS on the iPhone and is exactly what OS3 push was for!

Honestly if VoiceCentral could do push notifications (which I understand why they hesitate, since it means you have to store your GV credentials on VoiceCentral's servers instead of only on your phone ... meaning insecure for you and costly for them ... something Google could fix both problems easily if they had their own app) I would be 100% happy with it's functionality. Google could definitely do worse than immitating it and extending with push.

4) If Google would incorporate some form of true VOIP into the application so that we could use GV SMS with a VOIP call? Magic. And all the components are there since they own the GV number we use now.

5) Have a "smart switch" mode for notifications that, if you haven't checked for push notifications recently, will set SMS forwarding "on" to your cell phone. So that if you go out of data range (like in the middle of Oklahoma and Kansas) or need to turn off your data to save battery, you get SMS forwarded to your cell number until you start checking via the data connection again later.

This would be selectable as a check-box if you had "Receive SMS on this phone" selected.

6) Integrate GTalk into the SMS in Google Voice and vice versa for a single conversation panel. Ideally start supporting MSN and other protocols as well so we can keep all conversations available and sorted.

7) a "Voicemail-only" number that would drop directly to voicemail when forwarded, so that I could set up some of my other devices to drop to GV voicemail if they are busy (like my office line). (not an iPhone item per se, just a GV feature request)


My next project will be to see if I can get VOIP service on my iPhone that works in conjunction with Google Voice numbers so that I can get free time on my cell when I'm in WiFi range. It will probably be a bit complicated to set up but should be pretty easy to use if it works.

I'll post details on that once I've finished it or decided it won't work. I need to be in my home area to do all the testing.

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