Google Voice, previously called Grand Central, is rolling out the first mobile apps for the service this evening. The main function of the apps is to make it easier to use your Google Voice phone number by automatically routing outbound calls through Google and to the recipient. We first mentioned they were coming last month when we broke the news that Google would start letting users port their phone numbers over to the Voice product sometime this year.
Google Voice users get a phone number that should be the only number you give out to people. You route calls to mobile, home and other phones based on who’s calling and when. But there’s always been a nagging problem with the service – when you call out from your phones, people don’t see your Google Voice number on caller ID. They just see whatever phone number you are calling from. That means your friends have to store another phone number for you, or they don’t know who’s calling.
Google had the same issue with text messaging, but fixed that problem earlier this year by playing middle-man to those messages. Now they are doing something similar with voice calls via mobile apps. The applications make outbound calls to Google Voice, and those calls are then routed to the recipient, who sees the Google Voice number as the caller.
Two apps are being released tomorrow morning, for Blackberry and Android phones. The Android app is the most complete and takes over the native dialer, address book and call log. Users won’t be bothered with accidentally dialing numbers through the device phone number. The Blackberry app is less integrated, accessing only the native address book, and uses its own dialer. Users can’t simply go into the call log and return missed calls. They need to go back to the address book and select Google Voice to make the call. Still, it solves a big problem.
The apps also allow users to access the core features of Google Voice. Listen to/read voicemails and text messages (all voicemails are automatically transcribed as well), access call history, send SMS messages and place international calls at low rates.
Google Voice cofounder Craig Walker gave me a demo this afternoon of both apps, and told me that an iPhone version is in the works, too.
The apps can be downloaded at m.google.com/voice starting tomorrow (Wednesday).