Saturday, March 1, 2008

Google's Grand Central

So considering my last two posts (here and here) I should probably explain what Grand Central is!

Google's Grand Central is a free service that consists of a website and phone system that helps you manage multiple phones, phone calls, call forwarding, voice mail, and contacts.

Here is a quick summary of how it works:

  • You register at GrandCentral.com
  • You tell them your various phone numbers
  • You enter your contact's names and phone numbers into your GrandCentral.com address book
  • GrandCentral.com gives you a real local phone number that you give out
  • When someone calls it GrandCentral.com forwards the call to ALL of your phones (If you are at home answer on your land line to avoid cell phone minute usage).
  • When someone leaves you a voice mail it is saved as an audio file and can be accessed from you phone and in your inbox at GrandCentral.com
They have a ton of cool features including:
  • Manage how and when calls are forwarded (Don't forward work related calls after 6PM)
  • Email notification when a voice mail is left
  • Record your phone calls
  • Different greetings for different callers
  • Different ringback tones for different callers
  • Listen live while callers leave you a message and optionally "pick up" while they are doing so
  • Block certain callers
  • Transfer live calls from one phone to another
The concept is great but there are still a few issues that need to get worked out:
  • It doesn't support forwarding to number with an extension so I can't set this up for my work number.
  • If I make a call from my phone, without using their web application, then my direct (non-grand central) phone number shows up on the other person's caller id. This means people will inevitably get and call my direct number and go around the grand central system. And their web application is not ideal for making calls.
  • Currently every time you get a call you must first speak to a grand central automated system that tells you who is calling and asks you what to do: Press 1 to accept call, Press 2 to send to voice mail, Press 3 to listen in on voice mail, Press 4 to accept and record call. This can be annoying since I already chose to pick up.
  • There is no synchronization between my phone's native address book and the GrandCentral addressbook.
Hopefully the first can be solved by supporting a timed pause. The other issues could best be solved through tighter integration with the phone software. Obviously Google is in a great position to do this since they are leading the development of Android (AKA The Google Phone).

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