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VOIP on Android, What’s Next?

Rumors on the future of Google Voice (gVoice) have been abound for well over a year now, with most indications pointing to an eventual consolidation with the G+ Hangouts app, that could be announced at Google I/O soon. As of yesterday 5/15/14, the long awaited closing of the gVoice API (XMPP) to 3rd parties has happened or soon will in the next few days. snrb Labs, creators of Android VOIP stalwart app GrooVe IP, has been warning about this shift for a long time and as of yesterday no longer supports gVoice users. GrooVe IP formerly integrated with the gVoice service via XMPP allowing users to make outbound voice calls over cellular data plans or wifi service using gVoice phone numbers, thus conserving cellular minutes. This is appealing for obvious reasons and delivers on the core value proposition of VOIP. There is also the slightly more complicated SIP client method that requires a bit more setup and has more moving parts on the backend. Any XMPP integration is now dead there too, however.

gVoice has had a good run

Despite the ability to make free calls over VOIP via 3rd-party app integration, gVoice in its current state has a host of other useful features, albeit mostly for inbound calls.

  • Cellular voicemail integration/ replacement – in my phone, instead of using Verizon for vmail service, gVoice captures the messages which are then (somewhat poorly) transcripted to text and emailed to me along with a flash audio file. I can play any message from my phone via the voice app, via email or /voice site on any PC. No dialing into a legacy central voicemail service to get messages.

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  • Multi-ring – gVoice allows users to specify multiple end points to route incoming calls. I could have my cell, my wife’s cell and the house phone all ring when anyone calls my gVoice number.

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  • Call screening/ blocking – gVoice provides a great buffer and allows you to obfuscate your “real” phone number. Any caller that comes in via my gVoice number must first announce themselves, then I have the option to accept the call, send them straight to vmail, or listen to them live while they leave a message and pick up during if I choose. Just like old-school answering machine screening. You can also permanently block any caller that comes in via the service through a few creative means (not in service message).

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  • SMS consolidation – gVoice supports in/outbound text messaging too which comes with the same benefits as voice calls in that they show up on your phone and in email. With gmail integration, you can simply reply to a gVoice text message from email and the recipient will get the text message on their device.
  • Caller Rules – Another great feature of gVoice allows users to specify calling rules based on the caller profile. If they’re in your contacts list you could: ring all phones, use a personal greeting and don’t screen. If anonymous: ring only mobile, use a generic greeting and screen. Lots of options and customizable possibilities here.

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This is the end

Is the end near for gVoice? I certainly hope not, as outbound VOIP calling was far from one of the most useful features I enjoy. Google is an advertising company, first and foremost, and people forget that. Yes they are extremely profitable and lead some of the best innovation of the day, but you have to consider why Google invests in the technology it does. gVoice came out before Google’s speech-to-text initiative, which clearly benefitted from the work done and data collected in gVoice. It was possibly why gVoice was created in the first place! Google invests in technologies to bolster its core search business or related offerings. Once that pipeline runs dry it might kill the initiative or integrate it into something else. gVoice fed the core search business helping to bring voice to that space, which is now a core feature in Android fed Google searches (“Ok, Google”). gVoice has served its purpose for Google. The lack of development effort or improvement to gVoice is pretty glaring at this point. The last update to the Android app was almost 8 months ago and google.com/voice hasn’t changed in a very long time.

Google is still betting big on Google+ and the more it can do to attract and retain users in that ecosphere the better. I use Hangouts on my Android devices but I’m still one of the early Google adopter hold-outs who still does not have a G+ profile. I’ll hold out as long as I can but Google is trying very hard to close the loop and slowly force everyone into G+. At some point, if you want to be social at all in any capacity in the Google universe, you will have to have a G+ profile. Why? Laser focused and relevant advertising based on a wide spectrum view of all of your data. Period. The data Google amasses on its users is extremely valuable to advertisers.

So, what is next?

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The future of gVoice and its current features is uncertain. A voice-enabled Hangouts app seems inevitable and a logical step for Google to make. Will most of the features I currently use in gVoice disappear at some point? Probably. With XMPP access gone, apps like GrooVe IP have had to find other means to provide their services. GrooVe IP has partnered with ring.to (backed by bandwidth.com) to carry this torch forward. This will require porting your gVoice number to ring.to or generating a new number via GrooVe IP. SMS is not currently supported with the new solution which is a bummer, but GrooVe says it’s coming. The good news is that you can still make free calls using VOIP on your Android device using your gVoice number if you wish. The bad news is that all of the gVoice integration goodness is gone and it will take the 3rd parties a while to get their solutions up to par.

3 comments:

  1. Great post. I was checking continuously this blog and I am impressed! Extremely helpful info specially the last part :) I care for such info much. I was looking for this particular information for a long time. Thank you and best of luck.

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  2. I already add and activate the google voice in my account but still cant be able to make call or receive any call...!!

    _____
    Ravi
    kingston ram

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