Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Google Voice web app on my iPhone

It's not a true substitute for the iPhone app that Apple killed at the start of the Google-Apple wars, or even for the third party GV apps we've lost, but it's a long delayed good replacement for the initial GV web app (see also):
Google Voice Blog: Google Voice for iPhone and Palm WebOS

Today we are launching a new Google Voice mobile web app for iPhone OS 3.0 and higher and Palm Web OS devices, harnessing the power of HTML5...

In addition to letting you access a streamlined version of your Google Voice inbox, the new web app also lets you display your Google Voice number as the outbound caller ID (so return calls come back to your Google Voice number), send and receive text messages for free, and place international calls at Google Voice's low rates.

To get started, visit m.google.com/voice in your mobile browser. For quick access, don't forget to create a shortcut to this URL on your home screen or Palm Launcher...
There are many limitations of this web app, such as:
  1. startup lag: I hope it's less laggy than the current web app, but still can have long delays compared to a phone app.
  2. authentication: The web apps don't store my google credentials. Every couple of weeks Google makes me re-enter them -- typically while I'm very busy doing something else. This sucks. My Google password is not trivial to enter.
  3. I'm not sure whether displaying my GV number as outbound caller ID is a feature or a bug. I think it's a feature. The way the phone makes calls differs from the old web app.
  4. no call or SMS notifications: You can't really use this for incoming calls or SMS because there's no notification function if the web app isn't running. This isn't so bad for me since I don't use GV this way, but I might use the number more if I could receive incoming calls! I'd love to use it for SMS and get rid of my SMS bill!
  5. no integration with phone contacts. There's also no way I can see to edit my Google contacts information on the phone.
  6. you can't specify which start screen to use
  7. The configuration UI for "caller ID" is unclear whether this is for outbound or inbound calls.
The good news is
  1. In many operations it feels a lot faster than the previous web app.
  2. If you view a contact and save the web page shortcut to the phone screen you get a quick way to call that person, saving several screen refreshes.
  3. There might be a way to use this to reduce my SMS costs. I'll report back on this.
It's enough of an improvement that I may have to go back and look again at a way to integrate my Google Contacts with iPhone/OS X Address Book.

See also:
Update 1/26/10: Uh-oh. I'm getting SMS notifications on my phone for every SMS message sent to Google Voice -- and I pay 20 cents apiece for those!! No, it's SMS notifications for voice mails, even though I had that disabled in my Google Voice settings. It's a bug, but probably not new. There's no way to report this bug to Google, their support service problem classification doesn't include "other" and this isn't one they've classified.
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