Google Voice is truly one of my favorite Google services. From its intimate integration with Sprint, to its smart spam filtering, to its ability to work with third-party apps like GrooVe IP (which enable free WiFi calling on my HTC EVO), it is hands down one of Google’s best offerings. It’s also quite literally unparalleled in the amount of services and functionality it offers for free – it has little or no serious competition.
A couple days ago, Google Voice offered yet another feature that I’ve been dying to see: the ability to screen callers more smartly. In other words, it’s now possible to only screen callers who aren’t in your contact list: you can play a special voicemail greeting just for them, ask them to state their name before being connected, or send unknown callers straight to voicemail without ringing your phone. Previously, this ability was available only through a cumbersome workaround: I had to routinely place all my contacts into a special Google Voice group, and I had to make a point of updating that group whenever I added a new contact. Now, the process is completely automated.
Good job, Google! But there’s a problem: Google Voice has been around for over three years, and even though there have been a few new feature introductions over these years, Google Voice remains largely unchanged. So here’s what I want to see from Google Voice sooner, rather than later:
- Integrated WiFi-calling in every Android handset. This might be accomplished through an update to the Google Talk app, so it will function like Gmail calling already does on the desktop. I understand that carriers might be resistant to this, but Android already offers Internet calling features with VOIP providers that support SIP (on my EVO 3D, I just have to go to Settings > Call > Internet call settings. Additionally, lots of popular apps like Vonage, Skype, or GrooVe IP already offer WiFi calling, and the carriers aren’t blocking those in Google Play. Therefore, I consider the carrier argument moot.
- The ability to send and receive faxes at your Google Voice number. Isn’t this obvious? It could be easily integrated into Gmail and/or Google Drive, so all your faxes will be in one, easily accessible location.
- The ability to send and receive texts from international numbers or SMS short codes. This is one thing that’s stopping Google Voice users from fully embracing the service. Granted, since I’ve integrated my Sprint number into Google Voice, I can at least receive international texts or texts from short codes on the Google Voice web interface. But I can’t reply. Google, if you’re listening, I will pay you for the ability to send international texts from my Google Voice number, as long as your pricing is better than Sprint’s.
- An auto-attendant feature. Wouldn’t it be awesome if your callers could select different options that would ring different phones? This seems like a great idea for small businesses, or for individuals who just want to look more important than they really are.
- The ability to record out-going calls. I know there could be legal issues with this, but it should be easy for Google to determine your location and block this feature if it’s illegal in your state. Plus, in most places, as long as you inform the caller that they are being recorded, it’s perfectly fine. (By the way, this feature would have been great when I was conducting phone interviews for research for my Master’s thesis.)
- The ability to upload MP3 files as your voicemail greeting. I’ve wanted this feature for the past three April Fool’s Days.
- The ability to choose what your callers hear when waiting for you to pick up, or when placed on hold. Personally, I’m not a fan of caller tones, or ring back tones, or whatever you like to call them, but some people are. Also, hold music would be nice for business users.
- The ability to send and receive MMS messages. This is another thing holding some people back from fully embracing the service.
- Integration with more carriers than Sprint. This of course requires cooperation from the carriers, which is sometimes hard to come by. Still, Google has a lot of weight it can throw around, so I think it can make it happen.
So now that I’ve thrown around some suggestions, what would you like to see from Google Voice? Let us know!