Google Voice gets a long-overdue update

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.

Comments closed
    • albundy
    • 3 years ago

    been using gvoice since day 1. have it set up through hangouts as a voip phone on my old galaxy s2 phone that has not cell service. call quality is pretty good.

    • Laykun
    • 3 years ago

    Ok, so Google has Google Voice, Hangouts, Messenger, Allo and Duo. FFS Google, just pick one and make it really good. Pick hangouts as most people already have it on their device. Allo and Duo are failures imo, not because they are badly made products, they are badly promoted so nobody uses them. Messenger is just a stop gap for text messages and nobody outside of the states can even use Google Voice.

      • Chrispy_
      • 3 years ago


      Hangouts is the only thing that stands a chance of competing against Zuckerberg-owned messaging. Add all the cool stuff from Voice, Allo and Duo into hangouts and be done with it.

    • flip-mode
    • 3 years ago

    I am a lightweight Android fan, and a big fan of the Nexus phones. Having said that, there is so much overlap in some of these services I find the whole thing annoying.

      • Sanctusx2
      • 3 years ago

      Also add Project Fi to the mix, with its vital functions connected to both Hangouts and Voice. It’s a big jumbled mess and each product suffers in a variety of ways because of it. They need to retire two, and integrate them all into one, cohesive platform.

      Also the addition of Google Allo absolutely didn’t help. The company has become a big pile of talent and money, with no clear vision or direction. It’s like they’re reenacting some the worst years of Microsoft. I can’t wait to see the Google Zune.

        • ImSpartacus
        • 3 years ago

        TIL Allo is a thing.

    • DragonDaddyBear
    • 3 years ago

    I really like Hangouts. Why can’t they just add these improvements to it? Hangouts is on my phone and browsers, making it easier to text or chat from just about everywhere. It has built in video and voice and conferencing. I feel like they are cannibalizing one of their best products and leaving the door open for a competitor like Skype.

      • ImSpartacus
      • 3 years ago

      Yeah, the overlap between hangouts and voice is very weird.

      It’s been kinda scary because I’m a voice user and that kind of overlap makes it seem like voice will get canned.

    • BillyBuerger
    • 3 years ago

    Hopefully they will consolidate and make things better going forward. I used to use hangouts. But the desktop app (or lack there of after killing gTalk) was crap so the people I used to use that with all moved to Skype (ug). Then I use Messenger for SMS/MMS and that works well. And Voice for voicemails. But that also wants to do SMS/MMS which is redundant and annoying when both apps report new message. The new Voice sure looks a lot like Messenger. So I would think it could replace it.

      • Magic Hate Ball
      • 3 years ago

      Yeah the whole thing is a nightmare of gobbly-gook workarounds right now.

      I had been using Voice as far back as 2009 or so I think it was as a personal number (in conjunction with a work phone for many years) and honestly it worked better back then than it does now!

      I miss the app just piggybacking my regular phone calls and using the text app for SMS… although the added MMS functionality of moving to Voice/Hangouts was nice as I missed many text pictures in the early years.

      What really annoys me is that my MyFordTouch doesn’t register texts that go into my Hangouts from my Voice number! Blah!

        • ImSpartacus
        • 3 years ago

        That’s a pain.

        I also have used voice since around its inception and transitioned to hangouts once Google advised that but my overall use case is mostly limited to my phone and a gmail tab in my browser, so everything had been pretty reasonable.

        I can see how integrating a car’s unique system could screw things up.

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