Congratulations Google Voice loyalists. Your time has finally come. After years of languishing on the vine, Google has finally updated its phone service with a new look and some new features for its Android, iOS and web clients.
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Predicting the future is near impossible -- but that doesn‘t stop us all from having a red hot go. Human beings have been predicting the future since the beginning of history and the results range from the hilarious to the downright uncanny.
One thing all future predictions have in common: they‘re rooted in our current understanding of how the world works. It‘s difficult to escape that mindset. We have no idea how technology will evolve, so our ideas are connected to the technology of today.
When Telstra announced it would offer visual voicemail on iPhones, we ran through an analysis of whether the service was worth paying for. Here's one specific scenario we didn't consider: retrieving voicemail when overseas.
Bad news if you don't fancy paying Telstra $5 a month for its newly-announced iPhone visual voicemail service and don't think Vodafone is up to the task: Optus says it has no plans for adding the option for its iPhone customers.
As we foreshadowed yesterday, Telstra is belatedly adding the visual voicemail feature for iPhone users -- but if you want it, you'll have to pay $5 a month for the privilege. Is that a worthwhile investment? The answer is "maybe", if you get a lot of voicemail from a fairly predictable group of contacts.
Windows only: Free record-and-compress utility JDVoiceMail might make you think twice about taking the time to send your parents a voice message, or make it easier to explain something in your own voice to a co-worker. Set JDVoiceMail to a high-compression codec like TrueSpeech, GSM, or MP3, and hit the red button to start recording. You'll see on-screen just how much time and space you're using. Set up email access, and your files get auto-attached to an email with its subject already set. You can also use JDVoiceMail to simply save a small voice file for your web site or other uses. JDVoiceMail is a free download for Windows systems only.JDVoiceMail
Need a phone line to receive a one-time fax or voicemails on a particular project, auction, or job search? Free service K7 hands out 10-digit Seattle-area phone numbers that can answer calls with customised voicemail greetings or accept faxes. You can access both the audio files and fax documents through your sign-up account, and the only restrictions are a 20-message/fax limit (the site starts deleting the oldest after that) and an account wipe out after 30 days of inactivity. Other than that, you've got a free bin to keep your personal numbers private and still get at your messages.K7
Web marketer and migraine sufferer Scott Clark is tracking all the daily variables—food, environment, activity, and the like—that surround his attacks with a migraine diary, and he's found text-to-speech services like Jott (original post) are the best hassle-free tool for the job. Not only will Jott (or ReQall or most similar systems) automatically record the date and time of the entries, but it's always accessible by cell phone, and one can create a dedicated "inbox" for migraines to separate the diary from productivity-related uses. For anyone looking to track a diet, health issue, or other things that happen away from the desk, it's worth looking into. Photo by robtxgal.Migraine Diary Creation using Jott
Mac OS X only: The latest beta 3 release of Yahoo Messenger for Mac adds voice and voicemail capabilities a la Skype. Using Yahoo Messenger, computer to computer voice calls are free, and you can purchase a PhoneOut and/or PhoneIn account to call land line or cell phones, or receive calls on your computer, or even set up call forwarding to land lines or mobile phones. (Rates start at 1 cent/minute in the U.S.) You can also send SMS messages with Yahoo Messenger, and get free voicemail; Yahoo Messenger delivers voicemail as an email attachment to the address you specify. Skype's had all these features for Mac and PC for some time now, so Yahoo's pretty late to the game—but it's still good to have options.Mac Version - Yahoo! Messenger
Free file-sharing drop box Drop.io has added a call-and-record service that makes the dead-simple sharing service even more helpful. Those signed up at Drop.io can call the number and extension listed at their page and record as long a message as they want—assuming it stays within the overall 100MB limit for free accounts. Very soon after, the recording shows up as an MP3 in your Drop.io box. It's a handy tool that helps create "ubiquitous capture," like Jott, and while it can't do as many things with your voice, it's certainly useful for podcasters and making verbal notes longer than 30 seconds.Drop.io voice
In his productivity bible Getting Things Done, David Allen says that you should minimise the number of collection buckets for all the information coming into in your life. (Collection buckets include a paper in-basket, email inbox, voicemail box, feed reader—anywhere new "stuff" channels into your day.)
You should have as many in-baskets as you need and as few as you can get by with... If you have too many collection zones, you won't be able to process them easily or consistently.
A few different services and tools can consolidate your inboxes and collection buckets, from email to voicemail and even paper and snail mail boxes. Let's take a look.
Single phone number with GrandCentral: Ever since I switched my main number over to a GrandCentral number, I never looked back. You can ring all or any subset of phone numbers you've already got on a per-contact basis with GrandCentral, or send calls to voicemail or screen them as messages are being left. Voicemail notifications come straight to your email box (if you work primarily in email, like I do, this is priceless), and you never have to worry about giving out your number. See more on how to consolidate your phone lines into a single number with GrandCentral.
Single email address with Gmail and Google Apps for Your Domain: This may be the fourth Gmail post of the day, but what the hell. Since Gmail can fetch and send mail from any POP-enabled existing address, it's a fabulous way to consolidate old addresses into a single place. Don't want to give up your custom domain [email protected] address? Google Apps for Your Domain gives you Gmail without the @gmail.com domain in your address.
Send paper to your digital "inbox" with the ScanSnap: This one I haven't gotten set up for myself yet, but it sounds like the best instant, scan-paper-to-PDF solution on the block. Over at 43 Folders, blogger Ryan Norbauer describes his Fujitsu ScanSnap workflow for a paperless existence. Definitely giving this a try myself in '08 so I can ditch the paper in-basket and use the digital "inbox" folder on my computer exclusively.
Snail mail: Okay, so most people don't have the problem of multiple mailing addresses. But if you're a freelancer who moves around a lot—or you've got a small business you'd like to have its own address—I can't recommend getting a PMB (Private Mail Box) enough. Sure it'll cost you a couple hundred a year, but the freedom to give out your mailing address without worry and even move without having to change your address is awesome.
How do you minimize the inboxes in your life? Tell us about it in the comments.
Blogger Brett Kelly says you should stop wasting your callers' time and shorten your voicemail greeting to the bare essentials—no music, no cutesy stuff, no obvious information like "I'm not available to take your call right now." In the end, he recommends simply saying your name and phone number. While I'm just as cranky as he is about time-wasting greetings, that seems a bit too curt. What's in your voicemail greeting? Let us know in the comments. (If long greetings drive you nutso, there are ways to skip long greetings and get right to the beep.)How to Make Your Outgoing Voicemail Message Not Suck