The competition between Microsoft and Google has been raging for a number of years now. The Windows Phone and Android mobile platforms are only a small part, online services are where the real competition is raging. One of the services where Google has a clear lead is Google Voice.
If you haven’t signed up for the service, Google Voice has a number of helpful features. The basic idea is that you sign up for an account, choose a phone number, and then direct your phone traffic to this Google Voice Number. From there you can have the calls automatically forward to one or several other phone numbers. Google Voice also handles voice mail, emailing or texting you notifications, even transcribing messages so that you can get an idea of the content of a message without ever dialing your phone.
Since Google Voice is a core service of a Microsoft competitor, we will most likely never see native integration into Windows Phone, but there are already a number of third party applications that allow you to use the service on your Windows Phone. To see how they rate, keep reading.
GV for Windows Phone
I’m going to be brutally honest. Don’t waste your time with GV right now. GV is missing the capability for push notifications, which is a key component of every other option. Also, there are a number of user interface mistakes, like login buttons that are placed so that they are hidden behind the keyboard. GV could be a player at some point, but it’s not right now.
$1.99 from the Marketplace (Zune link).
Each of the Google Voice clients in this review use the Metro UI as their basis; but Free Talk’s take on Metro is slightly different than the others, and it’s a good thing. Navigation between the different areas of the app is smooth and seamless. The different messages and missed calls are displayed with either the contact’s name, or the best guess on location, which is a nice feature. Push notifications can be enabled in the paid version, though currently there is no live tile capability.
Offering easily the most simplistic interface, GoVoice doesn’t offer some of the niceties that you get with the competition. There is definitely some value in the utilitarian view that GoVoice features, there’s no need to fumble between screens and the back button is rendered obsolete. Push notifications are included, and Live Tile integration has been added in the latest update.
$2.99 from the Marketplace (Zune link).
The only Google Voice client that offer’s a Live Tile at the time of this writing, GVoice jumps into contention for the top spot on that fact alone. Unfortunately there are some inconsistencies in the UI that drive my slightly (more) insane. The main screen features a call button, which brings up your phone’s contact list. Unfortunately there is no dialer presented, to get to that you have to go back to the main screen and swipe through the panorama. Furthermore, instead of using the built in dialer control, the makers of GVoice felt the need to build the dialer themselves. Small points perhaps, but these applications all offer extremely similar functionality, the small points are where comparisons must be made.
$3.99 from the Marketplace (Zune link).
For my money, GoVoice is the superior product of the bunch; though Free Talk is a close second. The clean and consistent UI, paired with the standard feature set and the Live Tile is enough to push GoVoice over the top.
Each of these applications feature a trial version, so take advantage of that to test the interface elements. I found that the UI is where the apps diverge, and your tastes may be wildly different than mine.
How much of a Google Voice user are you? Which app are you using to manage your account? Talk it up in the comments.