I once read an insightful observation about the geo-location revolution that came about with the popularlization of cell phones: In the old days of POTS (your landline, literally “plain old telephone service”) when you dialed a number you knew where you were calling but you didn’t know who was going to pick up. With cell phones that was reversed: you knew who you were calling but you had no idea where they were.
Only, this wasn’t quite true. To find someone you’d have to call their house, their workplace, their cellphone. What you were really calling wasn’t the person but one of their phones. Much of the time you’d end up with voicemail.
Well, the promise of the geolocation revolution has been taken to its logical conclusion. I’ve finally gotten my invitation to Google Voice, formerly Grand Central, the personalized telephone switching service that the big-G is opening up to U.S. customers this summer. It’s free and it gives you the ultimate in virtuality: a phone number that is not connected to any phone. When people call your Google Voice number, any number of phones start ringing. Which one you answer depends on your geography and convenience.
I have three phones set to ring on Google Voice calls depending on the type of call: my cell phone, my home phone and my computer (a Skype plan with it’s own incoming phone number). If I’m dissatisfied with the phone I’m on I can press the star key to have all my phones ring anew and transfer the call seamlessly (a very addictive past-time). It’s a fascinating evolution of the phone into a virtual communication device.
Intrigued? You can sign up for a Google Voice invite from its site. It’s not a perfect system. To use it most effectively requires changing your phoning habits and making a very serious switch. I suggest Lifehacker’s guide “How to Ease Your Transition to Google Voice” as a good place to start.