Google Voice Liberates Voicemail

Users of Google Voice can now choose Google as a voicemail provider for existing mobile numbers, displacing mobile carrier voicemail systems in the process.
Indeed, it's fair to say that Google is trying to empower Google Voice users. Consider the way a Google-produced video frames an advantage of having Google Voice transcribe one's voicemail messages: "If you ever change your phone company, you can take your messages with you," the video explains. "They are yours after all."

Another way that Google could put it would be to say that voicemail messages are not the property of mobile carriers, but that might sound like an effort to disempower mobile carriers.

The "feature" Paquet cited is called "conditional call forwarding," which has been available on phone networks for years. As its name suggests, it allows calls to be forwarded to another number under certain conditions.

What Google has done is given users the ability to set that condition for incoming calls. Now, if a Google Voice user chooses, he or she can send calls to Google Voice's voicemail system rather than to, say, AT&T's.

The benefit is that Google Voice will transcribe voicemail messages as text automatically, making voicemail messages more easily archived and searched. Other Google Voice features, like low-cost international calling and custom voicemail greetings, are available using an existing number too.

It's not quite number porting -- transferring a phone number from one telecom carrier to Google -- which brings with it the full Google Voice feature set -- the umbrella phone number for all one's phones, the ability to receive SMS messages via e-mail, and call blocking.

But Paquet believes conditional call forwarding may be enough for many users. "Potentially, a lot of people who felt they needed porting may be perfectly happy with this solution," he said. "As people come to understand all the benefits of the unique Google Voice number, we'll try to offer the opportunity to port."

Some carriers disable conditional call forwarding with pre-paid plans, so some Google Voice users may not be able to take advantage of these new changes to the service.

Paquet didn't have any information to provide about when Google Voice might open to the public. At the moment, the service is invitation-only.

Blue Cross of Northeast Pennsylvania, the University of Louisville School of Medicine, and a range of large and small healthcare providers are using mobile apps to improve care and help patients manage their health. Find out how. Download the report here (registration required).