Google Voice, unlike other Google services, is not as tightly integrated with Android devices as people would hope for. While Google Voice has replaced messaging (SMS) for many, the lack of a unified messaging inbox has been bugging Android users since quite sometime. ShortFuse of the Super One Click fame has released a new app in the Play Store – Fusion Messenger – that brings a single unified inbox for your normal messages and Google Voice, for now.
This is the first public beta of the application and the developer aims to add support for other messaging services such as Facebook messenger, Google Talk and other such services.
The app uses Holo UI but does not look that good. However, the app is blazing fast and nearly every option of the app can be customized to your liking. While the app may not be that great in its present state, it is backed by a talented developer who has been continuously taking public feedback, and it is just a matter of time before the app evolves into a must have app for every Android device.
It is hard to go online today without touching one or more Google products or services. If it is not search, it may be email, YouTube, Blogger, Picasa, Docs, or Calendar. Google has truly blanketed us with their web-based app offerings. Heck, even the Google Doodle is a conversationtopic!
In this editorial, I shall discuss how you can kick the Google habit, what I am using now as alternatives and why you probably won’t be able to replace certain Google products today. Ready to move away from Google? First, some background.
Some of the reasons I personally decided to look for alternatives:
Google became a part of virtually everything I did online. I used GMail, Google Reader, Google Finance, Blogger, Picasa, Picasa Web, Google Docs, Google Search, Google Calendar and Google Maps. I felt uncomfortable putting such a large portion of my online life in Google’s hands.
Google morphed from the cool little startup building fun stuff for consumers, to a dominant public company whose revenues essentially came from just one product. That’s the key most (96%) of its revenues (and profits) came from search advertising. In other words, it needed other ways to make money. The most obvious way to do so would be to extend the arm of advertising, their main revenue-generating product, into other products. I realized I was the merchandise.
Google seemed to get Apple and Facebook envy. Apple was growing rapidly across all their product lines and at very high profit margins, and Facebook was taking eyeballs and key talent away from Google. This led to some bad attempts to mock Apple and Facebook publicly, which of course delighted the Google developer and enthusiast community but came off as being negative to me. If you make a great product, you don’t need a negative campaign.
Aside from philosophy, some of the competing products started becoming better, and Google’s products started getting worse (more on that within my descriptions) prompting me to start Project Un-Google which was an effort to use fewer and fewer Google products, hopefully reaching a point where I did not depend on any Google product at all.
Whether it is for philosophy, or hedging your web app bets, it is good to know there is life outside Google when it comes to products and services online and offline. There is usually a strong resistance to change, especially if you have a long history with a product. There is a high cost for transferring the old stuff, and learning your way around a new product/service. However, these challenges are not insurmountable, and I hope you take a look at some or all of the products I list here as an alternative to Google. If you have ideas of other products I may not have mentioned, please let me know!
Popular Google products
Here are some of the Google products/services I will be comparing to competition:
I realize Google has many more products, appsand services, but I did not look at products like Book Search which are very niche. My attempt here is to look at the commonly used products and services only.
Not long ago, Gmail announced that it would offer its users the ability to call phones directly from Gmail. Today Gmail announced they have expanded their communications abilities. Now Gmail users can make or receive multiple phone calls at the same time.
In Gmail, click the “Call Phone” button. When you click the “Call Phone” button, a call window will pop up. See the picture below.
Once you are in a call, you now have the ability to make or receive a second call. If you click the “Call Phone” button again, while in a call, that current call will be placed on hold. In the picture below, you will see an example of how two calls look side by side. At this time Gmail doesn’t appear to let you join those calls in a conference. For now, each call will be handled one at a time, placing the other call on hold.
Receiving calls works pretty much the same. If you are in a call and you get another call, you will have the option to accept or reject the second call. If you accept the call, then the first call you were in will be placed on hold.
Whether you make a second call or not, you now have the ability in Gmail to put calls on hold. You also are currently limited to two outbound connections to physical phones.
Sprint, Samsung and Google have teamed up to announce the 4G’ version of the Nexus S the Nexus S 4G.
The Nexus S 4G is totally identical to its T-Mobile sibling, which launched at the end of December last year, except for some minor changes. The handset is powered by a 1GHz Hummingbird processor and packs 512MB of RAM and 16GB of on-board storage. A PowerVR SGX540 handles the graphics department of the handset.
The handset sports a beautiful 4-inch Super-AMOLED curved display, dubbed as the Contour’ display with WVGA (800×480) resolution. The phone also includes the usual GPS with A-GPS, Compass, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi b/g/n.
The back of the phone sports a 5MP camera with an LED Flash, while there is a front facing camera for video calling as well. The Nexus S 4G also sports NFC capabilities.
As its name suggests, the Nexus S 4G supports Sprint’s 4G WiMAX network.
Being a Google branded handset, the Nexus S 4G runs on the latest version of Android without any skin – stock Android 2.3 Gingerbread.
Sprint has also gone ahead and integrated Google Voice. This means that users can now use their existing Sprint number as their Google Voice number. Sprint owners can know more about this here.
Google also announced that the Nexus S will start retailing in six more countries France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Romania, and Portugal.
Google had introduced the Google Voice feature in Gmail back in August 2010. This new feature allowed users to make calls to anyone in US for free using Google Voice and had competitive rates for other countries.
Today, Google has added another feature to the service called "Click to Call" where they automatically link the phone number included in an email message.
When a user clicks on the link, Google will pull up the dialpad and automatically populate the phone number into it. In addition to that, Google has also added a quick dial icon next to the phone numbers in your contact list to allow you to quickly make a call.
Skype also has a similar feature available through their toolbars, however, in case of Skype, you can quickly make calls to numbers listed on any webpage, including Gmail.
I use the Gmail Phone call service a lot to place calls within the United States, this new subtle addition will definitely make things easier for me.
If you are a Google Voice user, here is some good news for you. Google hasjust announced that they are going to allow users to port their existing number to Google Voice.
With number portability, Google will allow users to continue using their existing number with the features that Google Voice provides users with. Users will no longer have to make use of a new number which was the case earlier.
Today, we’re excited to announce that Number Porting is available for all existing Google Voice users. This means you can make the mobile number you’ve always used your Google Voice number, so it can ring any phone you wantâ€”or even your computer.
The number porting will come in handy for people who have used a single number for a long time and do not want to forgo it just to use Google Voice. To port your number to Google Voice, login to your account and visit the settings page. On this page click on the "Change / Port" link to port your number to Google Voice. Porting your number is quite handy, but it will come at a one time cost of $20. The process itself will be completed within 24 hours too.
Once you have ported your number to Google Voice, your mobile service plan will be cancelled and you will have to follow a series of steps to continue making calls through Google Voice. This Google Voice Help Center article has detailed steps on how number porting works along with tips to make the switching process easier.
Number Porting will initially be available for existing customers, with support for new customers in near future. You can watch a video about how Number porting will work below. Click here if you can’t see it.
A few months ago, Google introduced phone calls in Gmail. This feature allowed users to make calls to several countries through Google Talk and is powered by Google Voice. Back then Google had promised to provide free calling for users in the United States and Canada till the end of 2010. However, Google has now extended the free calling through Gmail till 2011.
In a recent blog post Google said that they will be extending free calling to US and Canada numbers till the end of 2011:
When we launched calling in Gmail back in August, we wanted it to be easy and affordable, so we made calls to the U.S. and Canada free for the rest of 2010. In the spirit of holiday giving and to help people keep in touch in the new year, we’re extending free calling for all of 2011.
Earlier this year, a big feud broke out between two giants; Google and Apple; over an iPhone app for Google Voice, the phone service provided by Google.
The trouble started after Apple blocked the Google Voice app for iPhone which then also involved the FCC and Eric Schmidt resigning from the Apple board of directors. However, it looks like both Apple and Google have worked over their differences since the Google Voice app is now officially available for the iPhone.
Google officially announced that the Google Voice app for iPhone and iPod Touch is available for download from the App store. The new app will allow you to make cheap international calls and provide free text messaging to US numbers. Google Voice for iPhone will also include push notifications and will involve making calls through Direct Access numbers.
Excited about this news? Don’t wait, go ahead and download the Google Voice app from the app store here. Not sure what Google Voice is? Check out a video which explains what Google Voice is.
Update: As pointed in the comment below, this app does not work on the iPod Touch yet. There are several comments on the app page which point this out too. I will figure out a way to get it running on the iPod Touch soon.
Back in 2007, Google had launched a voice based directory service 1-800-GOOG-411 which allowed users to connect to businesses across the US and Canada. This service will be shut down on November 12, 2010.
Google’s 1-800-GOOG-411 became quite popular as a voice based search service which gave you directory assistance to find business around the US and Canada. However, since then Google has improvised this service and also integrated it closely with their mobile OS Android.
Though Google has decided to discontinue the 1-800-GOOG-411 service, users can still find information about businesses by sending a text message to their short number service at 466453 (GOOGLE). In addition to that you can also use the new GmailPhone Calling feature which allows you to call anyone in US and Canada for free while charging you a small fee for international calls.
When Google Voice was first launched, it was a huge hit among users. It was the perfect service for those who wanted to manage several numbers and wanted advanced features like online voicemail, transcription and call routing, screening and blocking.
The excitement reached a whole new level when Google Voice apps became available for the iPhone and Android devices. However, Apple soon pulled them off the App Store for duplicating the native features of the iPhone. Many iPhone users were angry at first and a few even shifted to the Android platform.
Now, though, it seems that Apple has started allowing Google Voice apps in the App Store again.
GV Connect is the first Google Voice app which has been approved by the App Store gatekeepers. It is a $2.99 app which provides support for calls, SMS and voicemail features via Google Voice.
Even the GV Mobile app will probably be approved soon.