Google Voice now open to all [Update: U.S. only]

Google had previously loosened the reigns on Google Voice for students but now the search giant is making its calling service free to everyone, no invite needed.

If you’ve never used Google Voice before, it’s essentially a call-forwarding service that enables all your phones to be routed to a specific number. This means your cell phone, home phone and office number can go to one universal number. This is particularly useful for the IntoMobile team, as we’re always reviewing handsets, so it’s nice to be able to have one number to throw on the new device.

Google Voice also enables you to send and receive SMS messages without it counting against your monthly allotment, if you’re using the service on a mobile phone. You’ll also be able to send SMS or make phone calls via VoIP through your browser.

So, it’s a really cool service and I’m happy that it’s open to all comers now but I do have a few complaints about Google Voice and the apps themselves. One of the problems is that I’ve grown so dependent on it that I automatically don’t like a handset that doesn’t have good integration (that’s why I lean toward Android handsets at the moment).

If you’re on an iPhone, you can use the service via a web application but this is not as smooth as other versions. Additionally, unless Google gives you special treatment, you can’t port your existing number to the service.

Another cool in theory aspect of Google Voice is that it automatically transcribes your voice mails. This seems perfect for someone who never listens to his messages but the transcriptions are so bad it borders on comical. Sure, you can get the gist of the message sometimes, but it’s nearly worthless.

Still, I don’t want to sound too negative because this is a cool, free service. Try it out unless you’re scared of Google having access to all the information in your life.

Hop on after the jump for a brief introductory video on Google Voice.

[Update] Sorry guys, forgot to mention that this if for United States residents only (Thanks for the note, Dave).

[Via Google]

Here’s a YouTube video straight from the horse’s mouth about Google Voice.

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