After five years without a significant update you'd be forgiven for thinking that Google Voice was going the way of Reader or iGoogle—projects that seemed to have some traction and a healthy user base but were abandoned as the company moved on to other things. Not only is Voice getting a much-needed UI facelift and new organizational tools, however, but Google is also committing to rolling out new updates and features going forward.
Google started the renewal of Voice by modernizing the design of its iOS, Android, and web apps, making them visually similar to its other products. The company improved the app's organizational tools with this update, by separating text messages, calls, and voicemails into different tabs in the user's inbox. Google also added threaded conversations and group and photo MMS—all features that bring it in line with other popular communications apps.
Launched in 2009, the Google Voice service offers users a United States telephone number that can be connected to multiple devices. Incoming calls are forwarded to all those devices simultaneously, letting the user pick up the call on whichever device is most convenient. Google Voice also provides PC-to-phone calling, voicemail transcription, text messaging, and call screening and blocking.
Some of these features may sound familiar to users of Google's Hangouts service, and there's a reason for that. The company says that there's enough overlap between the two tools that current users of Hangouts shouldn't feel the need to switch over to Google Voice. However, Google also tells us to expect new Voice features and timely updates in the future. Perhaps it's a good time for people to take a second look at Google Voice, especially those with a few too many phone numbers listed on their business cards.