Nearly two years after acquiring “one telephone for life” service GrandCentral, Google is finally preparing to relaunch the service with new features. GrandCentral has been in private beta for the last two years. Over the next few days Google will be prompting existing beta users to upgrade to Google Voice before rolling out the service to new users in a few weeks.
GrandCentral lets you set up a sngle phone number that you can give out to anyone. When they call that number, it will ring any phone number you’ve linked to the account. So you can print a single number on your business card, and people will be able to reach you on your home, work, and cellphones. The service also lets you record phone calls, screen calls, create rules for calls coming from specific numbers, and receive email notifications of voicemail messages.
Google Voice has all those features, plus a few new ones, like the ability to make free calls to US numbers and cheap calls to other numbers, make conference calls, and send, receive, store, and search SMS messages.
You’ll also get transcripts of all your voicemail messages. That alone is pretty cool. Google will use an automated method to convert speech to text – a service other companies are charging for. Why? Because My guess is because Google wants to monetize GrandCentral the same way it has Gmail: With contextually relevant ads that will show up in your sidebar. And in order to determine what ads are relevant, Google needs to translate speech to text.
The company admits that the automated transcripts won’t be perfect. But the company has been fine tuning its speech recognition software for the last year or two with the Goog-411 service.
You can find a more complete list of Google Voice features at the Google Voice homepage.