Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Temporarily giving up on Google voice

When I got my droid, I was really pumped about being able to use Google Voice exclusively. The features of Google Voice are really exciting: basically a router and firewall service for your phone with voicemail transcription, and a permanent record of all of your voicemails and SMSes. I'm sad to report, however, that I've stopped using my Google Voice number until further notice. Let me explain:

First, the experience of switching over to a new phone number was pretty painful, and painful in a way that they could easily have fixed. If they would let you do a one-time whole-phonebook text, which you can't (you can send to multiple recipients now, but limited to 5 people at a time), made it very difficult to tell everyone "this is my new number". It's not like I really want to call everyone in my phonebook or send them each individual text messages with my new number.

Second, I had a lot of trouble connecting calls the Google voice. There were a lot of times when I would try to make a call via Google voice, and it would never connect, even though my phone was reporting a data connection, then I would try to make a normal call and it would work.

Third, and most importantly, the lack of push SMS messaging rendered a much-loved communication medium useless. I simply can't wait until the next time the app polls for new messages. Often, the app would close without notifying me and I would go an entire day without getting the text messages; wondering why, I would start the app and receive 28 text messages all at once. I'm aware that there are workarounds for this involving e-mails that ARE pushed to the phone, and I can also just use Google talk, but they just don't seem very good.

I'm sure that people will tell me that Google Voice is a free service and I should be happy with it as is, but I maintain that Google will eventually be inserting ads so I think I am allowed to be picky.

Note that if they add push text messaging, I will immediately start using it again. Are you listening, Google? :)

Lo and behold! Long-scorned "absent" feature actually present!

I owned an iPhone for about three years, and I spent a lot of that three years calling conference numbers. That entire time, I was really frustrated that I didn't have a way to dial a phone number, insert a pause, and then dial a passcode. I never actually checked to see if this was possible; if it's not apparent how to do something on the iPhone, then it's not possible, because they do such a good job with the user experience. Or so I thought...

I then upgraded to a droid and experienced the same lack of function. I set out to determine whether there is an app for this sort of thing; this sort of function is an ideal candidate for a droid app, whereas an iPhone app wouldn't be able to do this because you can't control an iPhone's dialing functionality.

I was a little surprised to find that my first Googling yielded paydirt. I clicked a link, and started to read an article and it turns out that this is not an app, it's actually built into the droid's dialing application. I was a little miffed because this feature was sitting there right under my nose, just hidden in such a way that unless you knew it was there you wouldn't look for it.

Then it occurred to me that the exact same feature could be hiding in the iPhone's dialer app as well. It turns out it was. Conveniently, because of the iPhone's great user experience, and their failure here to make it obvious how to do this, I don't really feel like I need to blame myself for this oversight.