Google has their GrandCentral service in beta right now and I signed up to find out more about it. GrandCentral is a telephony service that let’s you route all your phone calls coming in and going out through a single phone number. Google provides you with a phone number and you link your phone numbers like cell, home and work to it. So what does GrandCentral actually do?
First off it let’s people call you at a single number. When your GrandCentral number gets called, all the numbers you link to it ring (or however you configure it). That makes giving out your number easier since someone will be able to get a hold of you from a single number. This is also nice if you have numbers that can’t be ported like home and work, just give out your Grand Central number. You can initiate calls from your browser: select the person you want to call and which of your phones you want to use. You get a call from your GrandCentral number, you pick up and then it calls whoever you chose.
At home and don’t want to use cell minutes? Answer your home phone. There is also the possibility of putting your Grand Central number in your “Fave 5” if your cell provider offers that service. Another cool feature is being able to switch between your phones without interrupting calls. Just hit *, your other phones will ring, answer the phone you want to transfer to and hang up the other one. Could be useful if you are having a conversation on your cell and arrive home or you have to leave and want to seamlessly switch to your cell.
There’s a few other cool features. You can screen calls like you could with old school answering machines: you hit 3 to pick up and listen as the caller leaves a message and then hit * to jump in. You can record conversations (both parties get notified) and forward or playback messages from your browser or by calling your Grand Central number.
The system is pretty customizable too. You can set how callers get screened based on if they are unknown or if they are in your address book. Have unknown callers go straight to voice mail and let them leave a message, but let your friends get right through. You can create groups and decide which phones ring for each one. You can record personalized greetings or rings for specific people and groups; friends could get a casual greeting, but business contacts get a more formal greeting.
Overall I think GrandCentral is a great idea if you actually need it. If you’ve just got a cell phone it might not be too useful. If you are juggling a cell, home and work it could be a pretty cool tool to have. Everything is free right now, but I think the plan is to charge for outgoing calls which might affect how appealing it is for personal use.