Google Voice is a telephony service that provides call forwarding and voicemail services, voice and text messaging, as well as U.S. and international call termination for Google Account customers in the U.S. and Canada. The service was launched by Google on March 11, 2009, after the company had acquired the service GrandCentral.
Google Voice provides a U.S. telephone number, chosen by the user from available numbers in selected area codes, free of charge to each user account. Calls to this number are forwarded to telephone numbers that each user must configure in the account web portal. Multiple destinations may be specified that ring simultaneously for incoming calls. Service establishment requires a United States telephone number. A user may answer and receive calls on any of the ringing phones as configured in the web portal. During a received call the user may switch between the configured telephones.Users in the U.S. may place outbound calls to domestic and international destinations. Calls may be initiated from any of the configured telephones, as well as from a mobile device app, or from the account portal. As of August 2011, users in many other countries also may place outbound calls from the web-based application to domestic and international phone numbers.Many other Google Voice services—such as voicemail, free text messaging, call history, conference calling, call screening, blocking of unwanted calls, and voice transcription to text of voicemail messages—are also available to U.S. residents. In terms of product integration, transcribed and audio voicemails, missed call notifications, and/or text messages can optionally be forwarded to an email account of the user’s choice. Additionally, text messages can be sent and received via the familiar email or IM interface by reading and writing text messages in numbers in Google Talk respectively (PC-to-Phone texting). Google Voice multi-way videoconferencing (with support for document sharing) is now integrated with Google+ Hangouts.The service is configured and maintained by the user in a web-based application, styled after Google’s e-mail service, Gmail, or with Android and iOS apps on smart phones or tablets. Google Voice currently provides free PC-to-phone calling within the United States and Canada, and PC-to-PC voice and video calling worldwide between users of the Google+ Hangouts browser plugin (available for Windows, Intel-based Mac OS X, and Linux).Almost all domestic and outbound calls to the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii) and Canada are currently free from the U.S. and Canada, and $0.01 per minute from everywhere else. International calls are billed according to a schedule posted on the Google Voice website.Late in 2009, Google Voice had approximately 1.4 million users, of which 570,000 used the service 7 days a week. This number rose markedly after Google made the transition of its Google Voice service from “invitation only” to be available to all Gmail subscribers in the United States. A Wired blog post quoted a figure of 3.5 million in 2013.Google Account customers in most other countries other than the U.S. and Canada may only access the call termination services through the integration with Google Hangouts.
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