The new Google Voice service juggles several telephone tricks, picking up where Google-acquired GrandCentral left off. Google Voice routes incoming calls to several phones simultaneously, dials numbers from the PC interface, includes web-accessible voicemail, and more. The biggest new feature transcribes voice messages so you can read them as SMS or email. All together, it's a great option for businesses with mobile needs, letting clients reach you wherever you are by dialing a single number.
While initially available only to current GrandCentral users, I'm relieved that Google is finally releasing an update. I've used the free GrandCentral for the mobility features, but especially for call recording options; the service has languished for two years, making me begin plans to move to another tool. (PhoneFusion looks like a close competitor, giving more routing options for multiple employees while coming with a $10-30 monthly fee.)
For my ideal business use, I've been waiting for two phone features: number porting and call transcription. The latter should be added soon, since it's just a longer version of voicemail transcription; Google Voice can already record full calls. And I hope that as Google Voice allows more users to sign up soon, the service will allow incoming and outgoing number ports. Most people reach me directly at one number already, and if I'm going to make the full jump, I'd like to just move that number to Google.
Google hasn't commented on new pricing, my final concern for business use. I'd actually rather pay a monthly fee than dabble with a not-ready-for-prime-time "beta" service. I'd also hope that cost would turn off any content-specific ads based on my voicemail. (The company hasn't commented on ads either, but those contextual ads seem likely since they appear everywhere else on Google.)
Google Voice seems close to matching my business needs. It even taps into an established Gmail contact list. But if it still can't deliver, PhoneFusion and other competitors are waiting.
Zack Stern is a freelance writer and editor based in San Francisco who will tell you if he's recording a call.