Google Voice iPhone App Woes

I’ve been a proud user of Google Voice now since I first received an invitation only shortly after it was available. Because I live in China, it provides me with a convenient, cheap way to stay in touch with my US based friends and family, regardless of where I am at any given time. And, with a little bit of tinkering, I can even have the number forward to my China Unicom mobile for a mere two cents per minute.

When Google Voice was first made available, I used mostly the lousy web app. It didn’t take me long to desperately find other solutions, the best being email forwarding: I had my SMS messages forwarded to my email, which I received on my iPhone. I could then reply to the email using a unique address, which my contact would then receive as an SMS text message. For frequently messaged friends, I stored the unique address in my address book, providing a simple way to send SMS messages.

Long after Apple famously rejected didn’t approve it, the Google Voice app is now on the iPhone in all its glory. And for those of you who have used it with any sort of frequency, you likely know how buggy it is.

I’m running the Google Voice app on the latest and greatest — as I write this, I’m using a 32gb iPhone 4, running iOS 4.3 — and several times a week, Google Voice crashes, fails to load, hangs while trying to send text messages, or, worse, tells me that it has updated successfully even when it hasn’t. This is frustrating at best, but because of the services it provides while I’m abroad, I have learned to accept it. (I’ve tried other apps, such GV Connect and GV Mobile, but have been largely unsatisfied with each.)

Several of my friends, however, do not use Google Voice at all anymore, simply because of this app’s instability, including my wife and at least three of my closest friends. This affects me mostly because my text message conversations get broken up — for example, I send a text to their Google Voice number, which forwards to their mobile, and they reply from their mobile — but also because I need to listen to the absurdly long menu of useless options (“…to leave a callback number, press 5”? Who has ever done that?) instead of the to-the-point Google Voice menu, which you can tailor to your liking.

Sadly, there is no great solution to this issue until Google updates and corrects their app.

But until then, there is a half solution that takes almost no effort, and lets you continue using your Google Voice number without making any extra effort on your phone: In your Google Voice settings, in the “Calls” tab, there is a setting for what to display when you text or call a Google Voice number from one of your forwarding phones. Select the option to “Display my Google Voice number”.


What will this do?

Now, when you call a Google Voice user, your GV number will appear on his caller ID. When you call a non Google Voice user, such as a landline or a business phone, their caller ID will display your mobile (non GV) number.

Why do I care?

In all reality, you probably won’t care. But the other Google Voice users you are friends with might. This way, when someone contacts you — via your Google Voice number or your mobile number — they will receive your future replies from the same number. If I send a text to your Google Voice number, your replies will come from your Google Voice number. If I am not a GV user and send a message to your non GV number, your replies will still come from your non GV number.

In any event, we still need to wait for Google to get its act together and clean up this app. But in the meantime, it may be worth maintaining your Google Voice number as the primary number at which to contact you, and this will help.

#googlevoice #iphone #technology

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