Google launches Google Voice telco service

Internet search giant Google is edging into the telecommunications sector by releasing a new application that will transform voicemail messages into text-based emails.


The service is currently available to United States users of a Google-owned telephone service called GrandCentral, which was acquired by the group in July 2007.


GrandCentral customers are provided with a single phone number to combine their landline and mobile numbers, as well as a voicemail account. The new service allows users to send transcribed voice messages to their email, make free domestic calls and take part in six-way conference calls.


“The new application improves the way you use your phone,” said the company in a blog post. “You can get transcripts of your voicemail and archive and search all the text messages you send and receive. You can also use the service to make low-priced international calls.


“When you receive a voicemail, Google Voice will automatically transcribe it into text so you can read what the voicemail is about,” the company says.


But Google warns that because the service is “fully automated [it] may include mistakes”.


Google Voice also allows users to make low-cost calls over the internet, similar to other voice-over-IP services such as Skype, which is owned by eBay. International calls can be made for a small fee, with credits purchased through the Google CheckOut service.


Other features of the service include allowing users to create groups and decide whether certain contacts are directed to voicemail straight away, or are put through to a user’s phone. Users can also screen a person’s call, listening to them leaving a voicemail message and then choosing to pick up at the appropriate point.


The service still remains in a beta testing version, but the company says it expects the service will be opened to the US public in the next few weeks.


But bad news for international users – the Google Voice service will remain available only to US customers – for now at least.


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