I've been using Google Voice a bit recently. Having lots of phones go off when your number is called is neat... and having you cell go off at the same time helps you know a call's for you, even with a shared phone sans caller ID.[1] It's a nice way to make free long distance calls from the office and the home phone (yes, I still have a landline), but tonight, when I tried making a call around 8pm, it was the worst quality I've heard in quite a while. I couldn't understand what was going on on the other end, and even after re-placing the call, the quality still stunk.

Later tonight, things went better, but I'm starting to figure out why Google is giving away free long distance. I'm betting they've determined how much bandwidth they're willing to dedicate to Voice and when call volume goes up, the compression goes up to match. If there are too many calls, well...

But if I'm using an Android phone, which apparently integrates easily with Voice, and the call volume cuts out when I'm most likely to make a call, I'm not going to be a Voice fan for long. I ended up using Skype at four cents to connect and 2.1 cents per minute instead. And the connection with Skype has proven to be exceptionally clear recently -- much better than my Sprint cellphone that I just gave up on (and switched carriers). Even when I called around 9:30 tonight with Voice, the conversation often sounded like I was speaking to tech support in India, where you have the tinny, Darth Vader like voice and reverb at times.

Still, Voice is pretty handy, and maybe calls in get priority. And maybe I'm extrapolating much too much from a couple of calls. Just thought I'd pass it along.

[1] I'm still too dinosaur-like to see the advantage of caller ID. I mean, I enjoy having it on the cell phone, but willingly pay extra? That's crazy talk. Call waiting? Let them eat busy signals, like I did while trudging uphill both ways to make a call. Oh, and that's another good feature of Voice -- a free answering service. I imagine my messages are in the cloud somewhere being mined by Google for help with voice recognition (though can my callers' messages be used in any sustained manner (beyond simple transcription) if they haven't given their permission?), but it's better than my $10 Call Keeper answering machine at home. Seriously, no 9 volt battery and you won't remember jack? Goodness.

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