I was a beta tester of Grand Central. It was a great service but one that I could not directly use. Why? I could not port my number. Without number porting, I could send calls to my Grand Central account but could not dial out. In practice, this meant that I would give my friends and family my Grand Central number but if I ever called them back, they would see my cell number provided by my carrier. This meant that these people would be required to have two numbers for me, which was more work and confusion than I wanted them to bear. Due to this, my Grand Central account received almost no usage.
Google bought Grand Central in what, about three years later (might be off by a bit), is turning into a prescient move. Google is slowly but surely making Grand Central (now Google Voice) into the pre-eminent, centralized place for all of my calling that is outside of the carriers control. This should (and does) scare the carriers. It is a powerful idea, which will force innovation (avoided like the plague by carriers). However, Google Voice, despite all the rucus earlier this year when they were slowly opening the beta, changing names and launching their cell phone apps (and being rejected by Apple/ATT), still had the one glaring flaw carried over from Grand Central – number portability (and the subsequent hassle required).
What changed today that incentivizes me to finally use Google Voice?! Enablement of non-Google numbers for usage with Google Voice. Read about it here, here, and here. I enabled call forwarding on my cell phone and now all calls that are not answered go to Google voice. Goodbye Verizon voicemail and hello, in no particular order (since they are all great features, none of them offered by VZ on my phone), my new Google Voicemail: 1. Voicemail transcription, 2. Automatic email of the transcript (plus the voice message), 3. Customized answer messages for different people.
The first two options are great and will now allow me to actually manage my voice messages (instead of listening to each and every saved message to find the one I want). However, it is the third option (answer messages for different people) that has me the most excited (even though it has the least utility). I can now make specific messages for my brother, mother, father, girlfriend, boss, friend abc, and so forth. It is personalized and fun. This is the wave of the future. In five to ten years, everyone will be able to customize their voice messages (assuming we are still leaving them).
Thank you, Google, for innovating and pushing the boundaries. My life just became easier and more fun.
p.s. Google is going to fix the glaring number portability problem. It is on the way (supposedly sometime soon).