Google Voice: hold off on upgrading

Posted by & filed under Misc, Technology.

So, the updated version of Google Voice application for Android (and most likely other version as well, but I haven’t tried the blackberry one) now has a new “faster” dialing. What was happening before, is your phone would call web service, then dial your Google Voice number, and connected you wherever you were trying to call. It’d take a few seconds to do that.
New and updated application simply assigns a number of other Google Voice numbers to your contacts, so when you dial, say, Google Voice Number A, you’re automatically connected to your aunt in Sweden; and when you dial Google Voice Number B, it means you’re trying to dial your twice removed uncle in Germany.
New scheme is both good and bad.

Good:

  • it makes Google’s service more efficient. Specifically, they’d be able to spread out incoming load among multiple trunks that they receive calls through. Because nothing says that numbers system assigned have to stay the same — your dial out experience is completely transparent. So, if they don’t get too many incoming calls in, say, LA, your most frequently used contacts will be assigned those LA Google Voice numbers.
  • you can dial out a bit faster, especially if your data connection is crappy. I don’t think it’s really that important that you’d save a second or two, but failed calls due to lost data connection (presuming voice connection on your cell phone is still working) are, of course, annoying.

Bad:

  • Some cell phone providers offer a special feature, where calls to one (or a few) numbers are not billed per minute for a small fee. For example Sprint to Home where for $5 a month, or free, if you are using them as long distance carrier on your traditional home phone. Other providers also used to have similar features (see A-List with 5 numbers for AT&T). While using an old version of the google voice application, you could add your Google Voice number to that unlimited calling feature, and all calls placed via Google Voice would be free. Sweet! Except now you can’t do it any more, as each contact you’re dialing has a different number.
  • If you call several different numbers, you will get a bunch of numbers in your bill that you do not recognize. I don’t normally call LA numbers, so when I see my cell phone bill, it is confusing — a bunch of calls to different numbers that I did not make (oh, wait, call times suspiciously match my calls via GV).

So, if seeing random numbers in your cell bill doesn’t bother you, and if you weren’t using any special feature tricks from your provider, by all means, do upgrade. Otherwise stay with old version until Google makes this feature optional (if they ever will), or switch back to putting your Google Voice number into address book as a calling card, and dial the old-fashioned way.

Frankly, I don’t understand why Sprint, AT&T and Verizon all have such terrible international rates. Calling Germany for more than $1.50 a minute? Insanity. That is, unless you give them $4 or so, after which rate drops to about 10c, with calling mobiles still being about 25c a minute or so. Versus 2c per minute for Google Voice.

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