Google Voice’s cavalcade of ringing phones

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.

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