I have to admit I'm a bit of a fan of Google's services, and tend to pay a fair bit of attention when Google decides to pick up a company - to me, founded or not, it signals that the service will stick around and has the financial backing to continue offering a good service on the cheap.
GrandCentral - What it is
Take the example of GrandCentral. The site was established by Craig Walker & Vincent Paquet with the goal of creating one number that would never change that you could be reached at any time (no more having to tell people when you're in the office, when you're on your cell, etc). It does that by assigning you a new phone number, and then you set up forwarding rules to forward your calls to another phone. The other thing it allows you to do is call out using their webpage - select your phone and who you want to call and it will ring your phone and then ring up your friend.
Why I Love It
I have a number of friends living in the United States and calling south of the boarder can quickly become expensive. I set up my GrandCentral number so that my friends could call me (most of them have free States-wide long distance on their cell phones) and I could it turn call them. Incoming calls will always be free and outgoing calls remain free during the beta period, according to their website. It's totally free for me, because I have free incoming calls on my cell phone. That's what I set it up for, and it works great for that.
There's other cool features too:
- A "Web Call" button: Put a little bit of code on the web and anyone can call you, without even giving out your phone number. It's supposed to be great for blogs or eBay listings or the like.
- Call Screening: You never have to worry about getting unwanted calls. When someone call you, after you pick up, you're given the option of 1) accepting the call, 2) sending the call to voicemail, 3) send to voicemail, but listen in (like we used to do with the answering machine at home), or 4) record the call. On the website, you can set up forwarding rules, including sending certain callers to a "This number is no longer available" message - great for telemarketers or ex-girlfriends that won't leave you alone.
What I Wish It Had
For all the wonders of the service, there are still a few things I wish the service had. My wishlist included:
- Better Sound Quality: The sound quality varies, but is often sub-par. That being said, it's been worse when I'm on my cell phone and so is my friend - cell phones are exactly noted for sound quality.
- Canadian numbers: Although GrandCentral will ring on a Canadian number, they offer no Canadian numbers to serve as your GrandCentral number. For me, this is a fairly big hindrance to using the service to as designed - my friends will send me an email or find out my cell number before making an international call to get a hold of me.
- To Call Without Internet Access: I don't see a good solution to this, but as it sits right now, it order to call out, you need to go to GrandCentral's website. Most of the time, I'm close to a computer, but the great thing about a phone is it stands alone, and it doesn't if you have to rely on a website (I'm too cheap to pay for mobile internet on my cell phone). Maybe placing calls by sending a SMS would be a solution...
I know I've stated this above, but to recap: Although no Canadian numbers are offered by GrandCentral, you can forward your calls to Canadian numbers and make calls from Canadian numbers (for example, by using the web button above), so the service isn't a complete write off it you live north of the 49th!