I'm a huge fan of Google Voice, both for personal and professional uses. I've been a user since it was GrandCentral. Transcribed voicemails. Computer-to-phone-to-computer texting. Inbound call filtering. One number ringing all phones at once. Terrific.
I have two issues with Google Voice:
- Google Contacts My contacts are stored in Apple's Address Book. The address book syncs with Google Contacts but it's not 100% seamless. Duplicates, missing fields, delayed syncing, etc.
- Receiving / Placing Calls This one might be a bit specific, but I like to have Google Voice ring my Gmail account while I'm sitting in front of the computer. When an incoming call comes in, I click "Accept" and start talking - no fumbling around with the phone. Placing a call is the same - Drop in the number, hit call, and off I go. No fumbling around with the phone.
These are minor issues. I'm able to get around both of them with a little bit of work. It just seems there should be an easier way to make these connections.
What if Apple introduced a feature / product that competed with Google Voice? Or, what if they already have and we haven't quite noticed? Apple Messages might be that product.
When iOS 5 came out with iMessage, I was a little giddy that this screen appeared:
It's just a field name, but "Caller ID" is quite interesting a name for instant messages or text messages (and a little confusing when setting up).
Nothing really came of this, until Apple Messages was released in beta this past week. Guess what snuck into the settings:
Apple has the phone, the OS, and now the connecting application for the Mac. And they can mimic the function that Google Voice provides, but in a much more seamless way. (At least for Mac / iOS users.)
What if you are on your computer and a phone call comes in to your Apple Messages number. Similar to Google Voice, you can have the call directed to your computer, where you can use Apple Messages to answer the call.
You don't have to interrupt your workflow by stopping, looking for your phone, answering, taking notes, hanging up, then continuing your work. As a call comes in, Apple Messages lights up and you click answer.
(This is available with Google Voice as long as you have Google Mail open, or an application that accepts incoming / outgoing phone calls like MailPlane.)
So, how can Apple make this experience even better than what Google has provided with Google Voice? A few things come to mind:
SIRI Allow Messages to be Siri-controlled. If a call comes in, let me answer it by a voice command. Something like "Answer Call" or "Send to Voicemail" or "Not Available, Add Reminder". There are a lot of follow-on / add-on tasks that Siri can help when it comes to phone calls.
ICAL / CALENDAR Tight integration with the Calendar application would take the 'do not disturb' option out of the picture. Here's the deal: Let's say you have a webinar scheduled from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM. If you are on the webinar, you likely will not be able to take calls. Let Calendar and Messages work together to help any incoming calls during that hour.
Or, what if you are on a plane for 8 hours? Might make more sense there.
How would this work? Just add a "Busy / DND" to the "Show As" option in iCal / Calendar.
REMINDERS If a call comes in and you're unable to take it, why not allow a Siri-enabled command set up a reminder to return the call later in the day. Or to take some other action (ie, "Send boss updated campaign numbers"). The action is added to the Reminders app. Done.
ADDRESS BOOK Probably the obvious integration but think about a one-click-to-call feature for each entry? With a click, I can have Apple Messages initiate a phone call with a specific contact.
This might set customers up for a nice, rich set of features for our mobile and communication devices, taking us into a new generation of unified communication.
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