Google Voice Gets Its First Major Update in Five Years

Posted on January 23, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, Mobile, iOS, Android with 20 Comments

Google Voice Gets Its First Major Update in Five Years

The original vision for Google Voice was solid, but Google has let the service languish for five years. Today, that is finally changing.

“When we first introduced Google Voice our goal was to create ‘one number for life,’ a phone number that’s tied to you, rather than a single device or a location,” an Official Google Blog post notes, explaining the service’s central excellence. “Since then, millions of people have signed up to use Google Voice to call, text and get voicemail on all their devices.”

I had a Google Voice number for many years, but in the transition from iPhone to Windows phone back in 2008, it became harder to use it effectively. So it kind of sat there on the back burner until Google’s Project Fi service was launched: When I signed up for that service, I had to migrate my Google Voice number to Fi. So I sort of figured that Project Fi was perhaps the future of Google Voice.

Maybe not.

This week, Google has begun the first major revamp to its Google Voice apps on Android, iOS and the web in over five years. I’m not seeing this change yet, but Google says it will fully rollout in the coming weeks. Here’s what’s new.

Cleaner design. Google Voice had been stuck in that old Gmail-like UI from the mid-2000s, but the new version is cleaner, more intuitive, and more organized, Google says. There are separate tabs for text messages, calls and voicemails, and conversations are now threaded.

Upgraded messaging experience. In addition to conversation threading, messaging supports group and photo MMS, and in-notification replies.

Voicemail transcription improvements. The voicemail transcription feature is coming to Spanish and will get better over time.

Google says it will continue to update Google Voice with “new updates and features” going forward.


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Comments (20)

20 responses to “Google Voice Gets Its First Major Update in Five Years”

  1. 5812

    I love Google Voice. Been using it for 5 or 6 years. Easily the most important and least appreciated product Google has. This one product alone has saved my bacon many times. Had a broken phone and was able to survive on my Nexus 7 by taking my calls there when on wifi and or my pc with the hangouts app for windows. I would serious pay for this extra. Thank you Google!

    • 9562

      In reply to Nicholas_Kathrein:

      Truth.  Google gets bashed a lot around here due to the bitter WMobile ankle biters, but there's nothing else quite like GVoice - it fills a nice niche.  

      Besides the great call screening features, the real power comes in the advanced routing options - dump all your phone numbers into GVoice - home, cell, work, and then configure which incoming callers to ring (or not ring) on which phones.  Spouse goes straight through to cell phone, calls from mom ring only on the home phone, calls from your mistress go to your burner phone, work calls only between certain hours to home phone, etc.  Love it.

    • 6750

      In reply to Nicholas_Kathrein:

      I don't think a US-only service can be considered Google's most important product.

      • 5615

        In reply to ozaz:

        I would be willing to bet that for users who do have access to it (and it is possible to get access to it unofficially outside the US), Google Voice is one of Google's most important products. In my case, it is *the* most important Google product.

  2. 593

    I'm a long time user and last January I ported my long time mobile number in. It's been absolutely more useful than I could have imagined! My gf and kids are now convinced and they're going to bring their numbers over soon. As a purely Microsoft user and O365 for consumers lacking the same feature this fills that void. I simply forward all calls to my skype line and sms to my outlook email, where I have a rule in place to dump them in a folder labeled "sms." From there I get a notification on my 950xl or my work pc and it's as seamless as traditional sms for me. Also since then I've been able to receive mms messages. It's almost perfect. The only thing missing is it being purely Microsoft and being able to continue to lower my dependence on Google.

  3. 2706

    Holy s**t, photo MMS. That was the biggest weakness. I'm so happy (sniff).

  4. 4251

    Still a US only thing?

  5. 442

    I wish they'd bring back the ability to move a land line number to it...

  6. 7063

    Now this makes news me excited.

  7. 5615

    In reply to paulbear:

    "It's a shame that GV us only available in the US of A."

    Telephone pricing in the US works differently than in most other countries. Google Voice (and it's predecessor) originally used wholesale rate arbitrage in order to offer it as a free service. I'm assuming they still do, since it's still free to make calls to numbers in the US and Canada. It's my understanding that's not possible in other countries (many of which have "caller pays" pricing models and tougher regulatory obstacles). I suppose they could offer GV for a fee in other countries, but I suspect their efforts in that regard are focused more on expanding Project Fi (like they did with Three in the UK) rather than GV.

  8. 251

    It's a shame that GV us only available in the US of A.

  9. 5615

    "The original vision for Google Voice was solid, but Google has let the service languish for five years."

    Yes, the original Google Voice always has been and still is solid. It is truly the only Google service I could not do without. There's really nothing else like it...and it's free.

    No, they have not let the service "languish" for five years. It works just as well (even better, actually) today as it did when it was first introduced. What they haven't done is constantly change the Google Voice app UI (which, I guess, didn't sit well with some folks); but, that really didn't matter since they integrated GV functionality with Hangouts several years ago.

  10. 5615

    In reply to colin79666:

    Yes, it's mostly a US-only thing. The phone number you are assigned is a US number. It's unofficially possible for a non-US resident to get a US number, but it requires access to an alternate US number when you first sign up. They use wholesale calling rate arbitrage (or they did when they first started), which is unique to the US, which is how they're able to offer free calling and SMS to/from US and Canadian numbers. International calling rates are very reasonable, too (in fact, they're about as cheap as I've seen anywhere -- much cheaper than Skype rates).

  11. 8107

    In reply to Narg:

    I moved my landline from AT&T to AT&T's GoPhone then to Google Voice. AT&T to GoPhone took a week and lots of gnashing of teeth. GoPhone to Google Voice took 24 hours on the dot.

  12. 217

    I've been a GV user since the day it launched, it's a service I can't live without. I integrated my account into hangouts a couple years ago and it still works great. Upon hearing today's news I immediately switched back, but the GVoice app can't be used as a default SMS app. SMH Google. I used Fi for 6 months and moved my Voice account with me, then migrated it back to Google Voice when I left Fi. To be honest I no longer used the advanced GV features like call recording, call conferencing, msg-to-email, etc so I don't feel I am missing anything (yet). When they add more features I will move back.

    So I use Hangouts, Voice and Allo - daily. Ugh

  13. 2787

    My Google Voice number is now my Project Fi number, is there anything in this 'new' Google Voice that will have anything to do with Project Fi?  It seems to be a one or the other proposition.