Google Voice Review: A Promising Alternative if You're Using G Suite - UC Today

Google Voice Review: A Promising Alternative if You're Using G Suite - UC Today

Google Voice Review: A Promising Alternative if You're Using G Suite - UC Today

Posted: 27 Dec 2019 12:00 AM PST

Google Voice Review: A Promising Alternative if You're Using G Suite

Google Voice is among the lesser-known offerings from the house of Google. The search engine giant has rapidly carved a significant market for itself in cloud computing, powered by the Google Cloud Platform. One of its most popular offerings is G Suite – a range of productivity and collaboration tools for businesses. Google Voice is envisioned as an add-on to G Suite adding another element to Google's already highly layered offering.  

Interestingly, Google Voice predates the formation of Google's parent entity, Alphabet. It was originally founded by a company called GrandCentral (with funding from minor ventures) in 2005 before it was acquired by Google two years later for USD 95 million. Until 2009, the service was limited to existing users while Google continued to work behind-the-scenes to make GrandCentral's offering even better.  

Google Voice as we know it was launched on March 11th, 2009, based on Grand Central's original technology and augmented by several new features. Since then, the solution has gained from technology injections resulting from fresh acquisitions, like Gizmo5.  

Let's now review the capabilities of Google Voice.  

Inside Google Voice  

Google Voice is based on a simple premise: it turns any device into a work phone using a single pan-organisational number. Like most Google products, it's easy to set up, and seamlessly fits into your daily workflows. The standard G Suite Admin console can be used to manage the different configurations, number assignment, usage, and billing. It's biggest USP is probably the ubiquity of Google's ecosystem – if you are on an Android smartphone, Google Voice is a pleasure to use.  

Here's a quick review of its features:

  • You can add up to 10 users in the Starter pack, and unlimited users in Standard and Premier additions
  • 10/unlimited domestic locations can be onboarded, with international locations available only in the Premier version
  • Voicemail transcription lets you quickly glance through information for missed calls, prioritising and following up as necessary 
  • Google calendar can be integrated to schedule calls as per individual user availability
  • Reports on usage and real-time activity are available on every version, regardless of cost
  • Apart from the Starter pack, all versions come with a multi-level auto-attendant, helping customers to self-serve or reach the relevant agent/department
  • You can conduct an advanced search for calls, voicemail, and SMS records, thanks to Google Voice's built-in eDiscovery capabilities
  • If you opt for the Premier version, sophisticated and customised reporting using BigQuery is also supported
  • All versions barring Starter, are compatible with desk phones; Google has partnered with Polycom to provide certified hardware infrastructure

Why Google Voice makes a difference  

While it may appear simple on the surface, Google Voice has several factors going for it. First, it has been around for over a decade and has received consistent support from Google. Number selection and porting are particularly easy, guided by Google's intuitive user interface, and robust reference documentation repository. Scalability is another advantage, allowing rapid deployment from multiple locations across the world. And, the G Suite Admin console makes the management of the Google Voice service particularly easy.  

Google is known for its commitment to continuous innovation and upgrades. Its technology roadmap for Google Voice includes a feature called Data Regions, letting you pick and choose where you store your enterprise communications data. This can be particularly useful if you're looking to comply with specific data regulations.  

Tailored payment packages are among the added bonus features, especially if you're working in an educational institution. While Google follows standard rates for local/international calls, there are subsidies and special rates available for educational institutes.  

But we feel the Voice's biggest USP is its sheer organic nature. It blends in with your existing Google landscape, pops up on workflows at the right moments, and makes day-to-day usage a breeze.  

What We Think  

Google Voice has proved to be a preferred telephony solution for both small and large organisations – its roster of customers includes the likes of Dow Jones, Nelson, and the Portland State University. In fact, for anyone already on the G Suite ecosystem or heavily dependent on the Google Cloud Platform for business operations, Voice makes perfect sense. You just need to sign in to your account, subscribe to the feature, and Google Voice will automatically be charged to your monthly license fee.  

It also helps that Google Voice is competitively priced, starting at just USD 10 per user per month. So, if you're based out of one of its 9 supported regions, Voice is definitely worth a serious look.  

4.2 out of 5

Samsung's new bot Ballie could upend Google, Amazon's voice assistants - Business Insider Nordic

Posted: 12 Jan 2020 04:05 PM PST

  • Mike Shields, the former advertising editor for Business Insider who is now CEO of Shields Strategic Consulting, argues that Samsung's new robot Ballie has the potential to take on Google and Amazon's voice assistants.
  • Nearly 29 million smart speakers were sold in 2019, and voice assistants played a big role in 2020's CES.
  • Ballie is incredibly cute — and in trying to control the rest of your bots, terrifying at the same time.
  • Whichever device becomes the hub of the home could play an incredibly powerful role for the future of media and advertising.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

Could BB-8 kill the Empire by himself?

Not likely. But Samsung's new Ballie robot, which shares — as many have noted — a striking resemblance to the BB-8 droid from Star Wars, did make me think about a potential epic battle.

Did Samsung just deliver a Death Star-like blast at the digital evil empires — Google and Amazon — in an adorable package?

Put another way, could simple home robots like Ballie take down voice assistants — and upend the battle to control the ecosystem of the home?

In just a few short years, every gadget lover in America seemed to buy a Google Assistant and or an Amazon Echo. "Google and Amazon are dominating this category," said GroupM's global chief product officer Jack Smith during a tour at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this week. "And Google may be just a bit ahead."

This was highly evident at CES, where so many device manufacturers boasted about their voice assistant connectivity —  and Google's voice marketing was everywhere.

There were nearly 29 million smart speakers sold in 2019, according to the researcher Canalys.

On the surface, the stakes with voice assistants are massive. If consumers are headed toward living in fully wired smart homes in the near future, whoever builds the device that emerges as the hub of that home would be in an incredibly powerful position for the future of media and advertising. If down the road you use Alexa to talk to everything in your house — your TV, your fridge, etc. — think about all the data Amazon collects and influence it wields.

So what if Samsung steals that pole position?

"It's a very interesting question," Smith said.

The bots are coming, and you'll need one to control them all

Interestingly, the idea behind Ballie is to not supply answers to all the world's questions, but to tell other devices — including other bots — what to do.

(This assumes, of course, that we all end up with loads of digital devices that we'll want Ballie to talk to, like a robot vacuum, a smart TV, smart dishwasher, smart fridge, digital thermostat, etc. A big "if" indeed.)

"They want to be a bridge between devices," Smith said. "That's simultaneously interesting and absolutely terrifying."

Is Ballie that terrifying? It's actually incredibly cute. In the demo I watched, a presentation gave Ballie gentle voice commands, and Ballie told another cute robot to clean up the floor.

It was awfully practical. And if you're doubting that most people will have robots in their homes like Jetsons — well, how many of you already have a Roomba? The bots are coming, and apparently you'll need one bot to be in charge.

Wait, aren't Google and Amazon's voice assistants valuable because they are essentially voice search engines, from the two greatest search companies on the planet?

True. But then again, how do you use Alexa in your home, other than controlling Spotify and checking the weather? Do you need to have a knowledge base of everything on the internet? Or just a few commands — particularly when many find some voice searches wanting?

"Right now, voice doesn't have enough consumer trust these days," said Tobias Dengel, CEO at the mobile app development firm WillowTree, which helps connect marketers' apps to voice tech. "It is not at a point where it is useful every day."

As Dengel put it, voice tech is often too slow and clunky. And it doesn't solve enough on its own. 

"We need to build voice to solve problems, not mimic humans," Dengel said.

Who knows — maybe voice will never prove to be a monster marketing category. There's no telling just how lucrative Amazon and Google's current in-home anchor position is.

Still, whichever manufacturer — be it a voice company or a bot maker — plays quarterback in a person's home, that's a home that competitors will likely have a tougher time cracking.

It helps that Ballie just seems fun. Here's betting most consumers will be charmed by this round bot. And Google and Amazon may want to strike back.


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