I’ve been using Google Voice since early August, and although I haven’t quite started giving out my GV number to everybody I meet, I’m definitely a big fan. Here’s why:
Its performance doesn’t depend on the quality of my Internet connection
My current apartment’s broadband connection is not fantastic. Since I moved here, I’ve tried using SkypeOut to call landlines in the USA and elsewhere, but the sound breaks up really badly - it’s impossible to hold a conversation. With Google Voice, on the other hand, the call sounds fine. It’s not as crystal-clear as a Skype-to-Skype call, but when the other person can’t get to Skype, it’s really my only option.
Better than phone cards
When I lived in the UK, I would use phone cards to call the USA. Making a call with a phone card is a huge pain: you have to dial one of the card’s access numbers, which are often unavailable; you have to enter a numeric code, usually too complicated to remember; and once the balance on the card has run out, you need to buy a new one. The customer service number on the back of the card seemed to have been disconnected - a huge hassle, as occasionally I’d buy cards that didn’t work at all. Google Voice wouldn’t have solved my problems, as it’s only available to people with American phone numbers, but I would have loved to have something similar.
It transcribes voicemail
At this point, nobody leaves me any voicemails, so I don’t really benefit from the voicemail transcription feature. That being said, it is incredibly cool - the text is lighter or darker, depending on how confident Google is in the transcription, and as you play back the voicemail, the individual words are highlighted. It’s somewhat of a gimmick, but it’s a spectacular gimmick.
All in all, I’ve had a really good experience with Google Voice. I use it a few times a week to call my family in the UK, and I’ve never had cause to complain about it - it’s easy to use, it’s economical, and it’s reliable. I’d strongly recommend it to any expat in the USA.