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Google Voice
Google Voice logo
Google Voice screenshot
Developer(s) Google
Operating system Web browser

Google Voice is a telecommunications service by Google[1] launched on March 11, 2009. The service is provided to a U.S. phone number, chosen by the user from available numbers in selected area codes, free of charge to each user account. Inbound calls to this number are forwarded to other phone numbers of the subscriber. Outbound calls may be placed to domestic and international destinations by dialing the Google Voice number or from a web-based application.[2] Inbound and outbound calls to U.S. (including Alaska and Hawaii) and Canada are free of charge.[3] International calls are billed according to a schedule posted on the Google Voice website.

The service is configured and maintained by the user in a web-based application, styled after Google's e-mail service, Gmail. Users must have an established U.S. telephone service to activate Google Voice. Users must configure this and optionally, additional phone numbers that ring simultaneously when the Google Voice number receives a call. The user may answer and receive the call on any of the ringing phones. Google Voice provides additional features such as voicemail, call history, conference calling, call screening, blocking of unwanted calls, and voice transcription to text of voicemail messages.[4] Received calls may be moved between configured telephones during a call.



Google Voice is only available for users in the United States.[5] Users may select a single U.S. phone number from various area codes. Incoming calls to the number may ring simultaneously any, all or none of the user's configured phones. Based on the calling number, or contact group (e.g., Family, Friends, Work), or on time of day (e.g., disabling a home phone during business hours and routing calls to mobile or business number), individual numbers may be configured to ring. The service also features centralized voicemail and indexable, automated voicemail transcription, accessible by PC or phone. Google Voice provides automatic blocking of known numbers, e.g., telemarketers, the ability to switch lines in mid-call, differentiated voice mail greetings based on caller, SMS forwarding, and call recording. Additionally, customers of Gizmo5, a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) service vendor, may forward calls to their Gizmo service which may be answered using a free computer application (or a web application[6]) or forwarded to any GoogleTalk, Skype or other SIP service.

Similar in concept, free Personal Numbering services have been available in the UK since 1993. It is also similar to the AT&T True Connections 500 service offered in the 1990s. AT&T's service required the direct involvement of AT&T to change the phone number list, while the Google service is user configurable on the web application.

The voice of Google Voice belongs to actress/voiceover artist Laurie Burke.[3] Burke has been the voice of the system from the very beginning, when it was Grand Central, and continues to record for the company as it grows in popularity.



GrandCentral, founded in 2005 by Craig Walker and Vincent Paquet with funding by Minor Ventures, was acquired by Google on July 2, 2007, for US$95 million in a transaction led by Wesley Chan. After purchasing GrandCentral, Google appeared to have abandoned the project[citation needed] and very little information about it was released. Posters in the GrandCentral support forums complained frequently of the dearth of information about the service and the lack of customer support.[7] An "open letter" in by reporter Judi Sohn entitled "Will the Last One to Leave GrandCentral Please Turn Out the Lights?" reflected the frustration many of GrandCentral's early adopters have expressed in the GrandCentral forums.[8] On March, 11 2009, the management of the service revealed that the team had been working on it throughout that period, apparently in secret,[2] and that it was being rebranded "Google Voice".[9] It was to keep most of the features originally offered in GrandCentral and add an impressive array of new features.[10][11]


Google Voice was launched on March 11, 2009, based on GrandCentral, with new features, including voicemail transcriptions and SMS managing. Google transitioned former GrandCentral accounts to Google Voice[9] and announced that the service would start accepting new members "within weeks" of the announcement.[2][9] On June 25, 2009, NBC's Today Show stated that Google Voice would be available nationwide on that day.[12] Google confirmed this in a Twitter message stating: "Google Voice on NBC Today Show. Invites to people on reservations list starting to go out today."[13] The expansion has been limited to users queued[14] on the invitation list. Users with paid-in balances also receive a limited number of invitation opportunities.

On July 1, 2009, Google Voice provided the option for users to change their service phone number for a US$10 fee.[15]

GrandCentral transition

Problems listening to this file? See media help.

As of September 15, 2009, GrandCentral has been shut down. People who use that website can still log into the site to retrieve old messages and data, but no new calls can be placed through the system.[16] All GrandCentral users who haven't moved over to Google Voice are advised to do so now.[17]

Gizmo5 acquisition

On November 12, 2009, Google announced that it had acquired Gizmo5[18] for a reported US$30 million in cash. A major effect of this announcement is that Gizmo5 has suspended new signups until it is re-launched by Google.[19]


Google Voice has retained many of GrandCentral's features, with several additions.

  • A single Google forwarding number to all of the user's phones
  • Free calls and SMS in the US and Canada, as well as free international SMS
  • Calling international phone numbers for as low as US$0.02 per minute
  • Call screening. Announcement of callers based on their number or by an automated identification request for blocked numbers
  • Listening in on someone's recording of a voice message before taking a call
  • Blocking calls from specified numbers
  • Send, receive, and store SMS online
  • Answering incoming calls on any configured phone
  • Call routing. Selection of phones that should ring based on calling number
  • Voicemail transcripts. Reading of voicemail messages online
  • Listening to voicemail online or from a phone
  • Notification of voicemail messages via email or SMS
  • Personalized greetings based on calling number
  • Forward or downloading of voicemails
  • Conference calling
  • Call recording and online archiving
  • Switching of phones during a call
  • Viewing the web inbox from a mobile device/phone
  • Customize preferences for contacts by group
  • Ability to change your number for a fee
  • Specifying an existing phone number instead of the Google Voice number on initial setup for use with limited functionality, such as some voicemail functions.[20] and using the voice mail system for the user's phone number (mobile devices only).[21]

Caller line identification

As a call forwarding service, Google Voice also forwards the caller line identification (CLID or caller id) of incoming calls to the user's telephone service. In order to correctly transmit their own CLID, based on the Google Voice number, on outgoing calls, the user must place calls through the Google Voice service by calling their own Google Voice number and using the service's menu choices,[22] or by using the web-based account portal to place a call.[23]

There are also Google Voice applications for Windows Mobile, Google Android, BlackBerry and Palm WebOS smartphones that can automatically place outgoing calls via the user's Google Voice service.[24]


Users in Hawaii and Alaska are only minimally supported. No local area codes were available until October 3, 2009, and charges were required for calls to those areas until October 7, 2009.[25][26][27]

While many customers in countries other than the United States have been grandfathered into Google Voice services, the features are reduced and often cost very small fees to call their own country. Google plans to implement Google Voice in other countries, but a time frame has not been released. A U.S. telephone number is required to create a Google Voice account.[28]

Since users do not have the ability to use short codes with Google Voice, it still lacks the ability to use certain social networks' mobile services, such as Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter.[29]

As recently as March 15, 2010, this message can be found at the top of an official Google Voice web page: "Google Voice is currently available through invitations only. To request an invitation, leave us your name and email address and we'll send an invite to you when they are available." There is no stated promise of if or when they will get back to you.[30]

Rejection from iPhone App Store

On July 27, 2009, Apple Inc. rejected a Google Voice app that was submitted by Google six weeks earlier. Other apps created for use with Google Voice, such as GVdialer, GV Mobile and VoiceCentral, were removed from the App Store. Apple states that the reason for the rejection and removals is that these apps replaced certain iPhone functions and features.[31]

A Google spokesman released this statement on the matter:[32]

We work hard to bring Google applications to a number of mobile platforms, including the iPhone. Apple Inc. did not approve the Google Voice application we submitted six weeks ago to the Apple App Store. We will continue to work to bring our services to iPhone users - for example, by taking advantage of advances in mobile browsers.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has opened an inquiry regarding the rejection of Google Voice for the iPhone. "The FCC asked why Apple rejected the Google Voice application for the iPhone and removed related 'third-party applications from its store." The FCC has also requested Google to submit a letter describing the application of Google Voice. "The request is part of a broader-ranging inquiry by the commission on exclusive deals between cell phone carriers and handset manufacturers for hot phones."[33]

GV Mobile was subsequently released to Cydia (an implementation of APT for jailbroken iPhones).[34]

In their response to the FCC, Google stated that the Google Voice application uses the carrier's voice network to place phone calls,[35] disspelling misconceptions that it is a voice over IP application. AT&T stated that they had no role in approval or rejection of the Google Voice application.[36] Apple stated that they have not rejected the application but are continuing to examine it. One argument against allowing the Google Voice app on the iPhone is that they are concerned that it replaces the iPhone user interface with its own, however there are many dialers and messaging apps that are currently available in the app store.[37] There is however, a jailbroken version of GVmobile. Both the free and paid version of them are out on Cydia and Rock on blackra1n.

Third-party notification applications

See also


  1. ^ Chan, Wesley (2007-07-02). "Official Google Blog: All aboard". Google. Retrieved 2008-03-12. 
  2. ^ a b c Pogue, David (2009-03-11). "One Number to Ring Them All". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ Paquet, Vincent (2009-10-07). "Google Voice Blog". Google. Retrieved 2009-10-07. 
  4. ^ "Google Voice". Retrieved 2009-08-21. 
  5. ^ "Google Voice invitation request". Google. Retrieved 2009-08-03. 
  6. ^ "Gizmo5 browser-based telephony application". Retrieved 2009-09-19. 
  7. ^ For example, see Sohn, Judi (2008-08-11). "Ready to Ditch GrandCentral? Take a Look at PhoneFusion One". Web Worker Daily. Retrieved 2009-12-08.  which mentions the problem. The original GrandCentral support forum is no longer online, having been replaced by a Google Groups forum with newer content.
  8. ^ Sohn, Judi (2009-01-26). "Will the Last One to Leave GrandCentral Please Turn Out the Lights?". Retrieved 2009-12-08. 
  9. ^ a b c "Moving to Google Voice!". Official Google Voice Blog. 2009-03-12. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  10. ^ Broida, Rick (2009-03-12). "GrandCentral Becomes Google Voice, Adds Features". BNET. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  11. ^ Peng, Dennis (2009-03-18). "ooma and Google Voice". Ooma. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  12. ^ One number for office home and cell. [Television]. Today. 2009. 
  13. ^ Google Voice Twitter feed on 6/25/09
  14. ^
  15. ^ Google Voice Help- Settings: Changing your number
  16. ^ GrandCentral will be shutting down as of today
  17. ^ Google Voice Twitter feed on 9/14/09
  18. ^ "Google welcomes Gizmo5". Google Voice Blog. Retrieved 2009-11-12. 
  19. ^ Kovitz, Steven (14 November 2009). "It's Official - Google Acquires Gizmo5!". Google Voice Secrets. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  20. ^ Paquet, Vincent (2009-10-26). "Use Google Voice with your existing number". Google. Retrieved 2009-10-26. 
  21. ^ Walker, Craig (2009-10-26). "Use Google Voice with your existing number". Google. Retrieved 2009-10-26. 
  22. ^ Google Voice: Bring us your number?
  23. ^ YouTube - Google Voice - Place calls
  24. ^ "Google Mobile". Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  25. ^ Google Voice looks to transform your phone --
  26. ^ "NEW GV FEATURE: Free calls to Hawaii and Alaska (3 October 2009)". Google Voice Help Forum. Retrieved 2009-10-07. 
  27. ^ Free calling now to Hawaii and Alaska -- Google Voice Blog
  28. ^ [1]
  29. ^ Pain in the Tech : Google Voice first impressions
  30. ^ [2]
  31. ^ Mills, Adam (2009-07-27). "Google Voice iPhone app rejected by Apple". Retrieved 2009-07-27. 
  32. ^ Jason, Kincaid (2009-07-27). "Apple Is Growing Rotten To The Core: Official Google Voice App Blocked From App Store". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  33. ^ Johnson, Fawn; Schatz, Amy (2009-08-01). "FCC Opens Inquiry of Apple's Ban of Google Voice". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  34. ^ Rene, Ritchie (2009-07-28). "GV Mobile Brings Google Voice to iPhone… via Cydia for Jailbreak". The iPhone Blog. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  35. ^ Whitt, Richard S. (21 August 2009). "Google's Response to FCC Inquiry Regarding Apple's Rejection of the Google Voice for iPhone Application" (PDF). Federal Communications Commission. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  36. ^ Cicconi, James W. (21 August 2009). [ "AT&T Response to Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Letter, DA 09- 1737 (July 31, 2009); RM-11361; RM-11497"] (PDF). Federal Communications Commission. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  37. ^ Novelli, Catherine A. (21 August 2009). "Apple's Response to the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau's Questions of July 31, 2009" (PDF). Federal Communications Commission. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 

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