Obsession and Google Voice
I don't believe that people who know me would say I'm the obsessive type, but my wife could tell you that I've obsessed about phones now and again over the years.
Several years ago I went through a Vonage phase when I played with the idea of losing my wireless phone for financial reasons and adding a home phone via VOIP. But Vonage was $25 a month, you couldn't text message with it, and the silly wifi phone that I chose seemed next to worthless when I was anywhere but home. This was also the period in Portland when we had city-wide free wireless internet. My idea was that I could take calls all over Portland with my wifi phone. Unfortunately my plan was fruitless because, A. Even though the wireless internet is free, you still had to be at a computer to log in, and B. Free wifi couldn't get enough ad support in Portland and folded after a year or less. All we have left are the memories. And the beautiful transmitters still mounted to the stop lights all over town.
The truth was-and continues to be-that I hated carrying both my personal and work cell phones. So when I was considering vonage and other VOIP services, I spent hours reading websites and spending a few dollars here and there to try out my ideas for changing up my phone service and making it a little cheaper or simpler. In the end, I decided that if we were going to add a phone, we'd add an old-school land line so we could use the telephone to call 911 without having telling the operator where we were in Portland exactly. This line has no long distance or any features whatsoever, and it costs us $20 a month. Now that I have google voice, it turns out that was a pretty smooth move. More on that later.
My wife tells my I also obsessed about which mobile phone to buy when my contract was coming up for renewal a couple years ago. I do remember pouring over all kinds of different phones, but the LG Voyager really caught my eye and seemed to do everything that I ever wanted it to do. And my Voyager has been a very good phone to me. My problem is that I love my work blackberry curve more. The voyager looks cool and plays video way better, but the blackberry carries out day to day operations smoother and easier. I couldn't give up one for the other, so I had been looking for a way to somehow digitize my personal phone number so that I could lose my costly wireless contract with Verizon and maybe do all my SMS's via email. It was a dream until Google Voice caught my eye early this year.
For the past six months I have been reading about Google Voice nearly daily. Google Voice is a service that allows users to communicate for free via a phone number they issue to you. The big reason why people were initially excited is that you can forward phone calls to the Google Voice number out to all your other phones simultaneously. I signed up to get to get a google voice account early on, and a month ago I finally got my invitation. So far the service hasn't let me down at all, but that is mostly because I knew exactly what the capabilities were going in. In truth, I haven't yet embedded Google Voice into my daily life yet because of one main reason: Google Voice doesn't yet allow users to port their number over to Google Voice. You need to use a new phone number.
Google Voice does have a nice Blackberry App which allows users to SMS via their data plan, so it's nice to finally have a way to avoid burning through you phone plan text messages. The app will also allow you to make phone calls using the blackberry directory, but those calls are made over the regular phone connections and they use your minutes like normal. On the plus side, you can pick which of your phone numbers you want the person on the other end to read on their caller ID, so that is pretty slick. One drawback on the app is that it doesn't let you just pick anyone from your address book to SMS. It's designed so that people can SMS you to your google voice number, and you can reply back. The app also lets you view and listen to your Google Voice text messages.
Over the past week I've been mulling over a rival service called 3jam, which allows you to port your number to them, anyone can join right now and it lets you do all your SMS'ing via email (Google Voice does not yet). The problem is that it costs money and I don't want to port to them now, only to port over to Google Voice in a month or so, or whenever they decide to open up this option to users.
There are a bunch of other features that are really cool and free, so this service looks to be really sweet overall. But until GV allows users to port their own phone numbers over, I may be stuck only obsessing about GV rather than really embracing it and using all of the features.