Friday, August 7, 2009

Thoughts on Google Voice on the BlackBerry...

It just friggin' works. Full stop.

Lost in the Google Voice-AT&T-iPhone debacle has been the fact that Google released clients for Android and BlackBerry a few weeks ago. I've been spending a lot of time lately playing around with VOIP security (and the lack thereof), but had been ignoring circuit-switched voice. So, I figured it was time to load up GV on the BB and see if its use is as simple as rumored.

Yup.

No, it's not as seamless as using the BB's built-in dialer, but it's close. Dialing takes one additional step, and SMS messages that come to your phone (rather than the GV app) come from a random gateway number, rather than from the sender's, although the user's name is prepended to the SMS--if and only if the user is in the contacts list of the Google Account associated with your Google Voice number. Similarly, if the user is in the contacts list, the SMS will show his/her name in the GV app; if not, only the phone number is shown. It's entirely feasible that you could have a user in your BlackBerry address book who isn't in your Google Account contacts. In such a scenario, you might send an SMS to the user by selecting him/her in the BB address book, choosing the BB menu button and selecting "SMS using Google Voice", then receive a response where you have absolutely no idea whence it came.

Niggling, yeah, but pretty easy to put up with, particularly when one considers that SMS usage via Google Voice is free. Gratis. Bereft of charge. Libero. Plus, the ability to send, receive, and manage text messages from a computer via the web UI is awesome. I'd signed up for a Grand Central number prior to Google acquiring the company and morphing GC into GV. Now that they've released a BlackBerry application, I've finally found GV useful enough to work into the everyday mix.

If you own a BlackBerry or Android device, and already have a Google Voice number, you owe it to yourself to try out the GV app.

For a full recap of pluses and minuses on the BB GV application, head over to the review on CIO.com.

One final thought. I run my business on Google Apps, meaning I have an account associated with each of my Google-hosted domains. I also have a Google Account associated with my Gmail account, which is where my Google Voice number is associated. Unfortunately, my contacts on my Google Apps accounts aren't perfectly synchronized with my Gmail account, meaning that many contacts who're on my BB (which is sync'd to my main Google Apps account) aren't in the Gmail account contacts--which means that quite a few contacts with whom I'll communicate using Google Voice aren't properly represented. I'd love for Google to enable a single, synchronized Google Account where I could store all my contacts, rather than having them in various locations through the Googlesphere. I'm sure there's a tremendous UI problem behind implementing such a solution, but a guy can hope.