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Review: Are we gaga for new Google Voice iPhone app? Eh...

November 17, 2010 |  4:14 pm

Photo 1 The Google Voice app actually produced by Google that never made quite made it to clamoring iPhones is finally available. It only took a year and a half and an FCC inquiry. 

Well, Apple finally gave its blessing to Google's GV app. It's certainly not the first to hit the market -- we reviewed GV Mobile+ and GV Connect earlier.

I took it for a little spin, kicked the tires, so to speak, checked out what this baby's got.


What works:

First off, what separates this from the two we looked at before, aside from the fact it's developed by Google, is the price. It's free! I'm not a math genius, but I know free beats $3.

Setup is super-simple. I know that iPhone-toting octogenarians who might be intimidated by other tech functions would have no problem downloading this app, opening it up and getting going.

The app offers push notifications for new texts and voicemail. Nice addition -- maybe we can unlink the Google Voice service's text from the iPhone's, which may actually have a quota and a price tag associated with overages.

In contacts, you can set up "quick dial" contacts, or favorites. Photos on the contacts show up here as well as the phone number. Kind of nice since most of us never actually dial those numbers. (Entire relationships start and end without actual digits being memorized.) Contact photos also appear in the inbox with text and voice messages.

Oh, and on the calling feature, the app made the connection quickly and without incident. Sound quality was clear. You can hear voice messages through the phone's earpiece or over its speaker.


What doesn't

Black screen of death This app is way too glitchy for how long we've been waiting for it. The number of times it locked up and required a restart is unacceptable for a developer of Google's caliber. At one point after trying to send a text, I was left in app purgatory with nothing but a black screen and on-screen buttons that led nowhere. Yet another reboot of the app was required.

While the quick dial option is nice, it's dreadfully slow to update -- when it decides to play along. The app purports to let you organize the order of the contacts there. But when you do put them in a preferred order, it reverts to what was there originally. At one point, the wrong face ended up on the wrong contact in that list.

Another tease with no follow-through is on the keypad. On the bottom left side, the icon for adding contacts is there. But when you tap it, nothing happens.

For all its simplicity, the app doesn't allow really any customization. Both the paid apps and Google's GV web app allow you to specify on which phones the Google Voice number should ring, set up "do not disturb" options, and toggle call screening on and off, among other things. The app lets you choose only one phone, which neglects to capitalize on one of the main features of Google Voice.

In the inbox, you can read and respond to messages there, but you cannot mark read or archive.


Bottom line

Ultimately, we've come to expect more from Google out of the gate, especially in supporting its own service. I'm sure we'll be seeing updates -- let's hope soon. For now, the other paid apps or Google's own web app are better options.


Google Voice iPhone apps: They're baaaack!

Google lets you make phone calls from Gmail

Google Voice officially launches to the public

 -- Michelle Maltais