You may have heard some buzz in the last month or two about a “new” product called Google Voice. It’s basically a renamed version of a product they’ve had called Grand Central. Google Voice is extremely powerful and actually quite simple. Essentially, Google assigns you a Google phone number. Think of this number as your secretary. You can give out this number to anyone and when they call the number, it goes to Google and Voice determines where to route the call. For example, you could configure Voice to direct calls to your cell during the evening hours and your work phone during the business day. Google Voice enables you to have Visual Voicemail, record calls, and block numbers forever. It basically manages your calls in a similar way that Gmail manages your email.

There are a few really obvious benefits. Some of the features such as call blocking, call recording, and visual voicemail are quite compelling. Unless you have a high-end smartphone, these types of services were not previously available. In addition, this Google number provides you extreme flexibility. Not only can you redirect calls to various phone numbers, but your actual (carrier provided) phone numbers don’t need to be shared with anyone. This means that changing your cell phone number is a non-issue if everyone is using your Google Voice number. All you have to do is tell Voice that your cell number has changed and that’s it!

Okay, now it’s time for me to explain what this whole “Think Twice” stuff is all about. Like most people, I was absolutely stoked when I first heard about Google Voice. A couple weeks have passed and I spent some more time thinking about it. I came up with a few potential flaws with the whole thing. First and foremost, how is this going to impact In-Network calling? Right now almost all people have free calls to other people on their cellular provider’s network. If everyone gets Google Voice numbers, won’t all of theses calls now be out of network? Another concern of mine revolves around availability. What happens if the service goes down and Google can’t properly route calls? In fact, this actually happened for a few hours in April 2008. So much of my communication is already reliant on the internet, it’s a little scary for me to relinquish my cell phone, too.

I also asked myself, “Why is Google doing this?”. I’m a big fan of Google but I truly believe that they are on a quest to gather as much data as possible. So much of our internet lives revolve around Google products already, it’s a little scary to feed them all this voice data (via recorded calls, voicemails, etc). Maybe it’s just paranoia on my end, but it’s something to consider. Maybe Google is gathering all this voice data to use for speech-to-text technology or translation projects. Who knows what they’re up to!

So when can you try out Voice?! From my understanding, Google is finally starting to open this up to the general public and has begun to send out invites to those who have requested them. I’m still waiting on mine. To request an invite, you can go here. I think the service is great but I’d recommend thinking about how you will manage this new number before you start sharing it with everyone.

To find out more information about Google Voice or watch the overview video, click here.