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The virtual phone number service, Google Voice, was originally launched in 2009.  How did Google Voice initially work? It allowed you to use call forwarding and voicemail services for a chosen phone number.

When it came out, we were excited to use it because it allowed a way to create a unique phone number for our business in the preferred area code and have calls forwarded to our landline phone. We didn’t have to pay for a second phone line or receive business calls on our personal line.

However, the days of landlines are gone, and in the meantime other companies came out with virtual phone numbers that worked similar to or better than Google Voice with your mobile phone. In fact, many people thought Google Voice was being completely removed from the Google lineup, but recently there have been some surprising updates to the service.

One big issue with the previous version of the app,  besides its awkward interface, was the inability to receive an image with the transcribed text that the service provided. The Verge reviews the MMS inline feature and what’s new with Google Voice in the following article:

Google Voice gets a new look for its first major update in years – The Verge

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Image from The Verge

Aside from simply bringing Voice up to date aesthetically, the upgraded app carries over some features that until now were only available for users who had switched to Hangouts for some Voice functions like texting and voicemail. For one, photo MMS is now supported by Google Voice on all platforms and across pretty much all major carriers. Images show up inline in your conversations, and firing off your own is as easy as any other texting app. That sounds like basic functionality, but MMS has been a longtime sore spot for Voice. No more emails with MMS attachments or other weird workarounds.

Read more here:  Google Voice gets a new look for its first major update in years – The Verge

This video analyzes the new features for Google Voice. The author goes through the ins and outs of using the app, how it is still integrated with Voice and Hangouts, but in addition also being integrated with the web application.  It is still an option for people who don’t want to use a phone carrier and prefer to use VoIP for their calls:

In this post by CNET, it examines the differences in how the application works for Android users as opposed to iPhone users. The main variable is the placement of the three dedicated tabs:

Revamped Google Voice has five new features you really need to check out – CNET

Most notably, Google Voice is now split up into three different sections. Each section has a dedicated tab, instead of a series of links.Google Voice

Android users will find the three tabs along the top of the screen, with the standard Android Compose button in the bottom-right corner. Select the compose button to reveal your contact list, along with a dial-pad button to place a call.

iOS users will have four tabs along the bottom of the app, the three mentioned above and a dedicated dial-pad button. Once you begin using the updated mobile app, the web interface will update as well. The web interface has three tabs plus a menu button.

Read the full post here:  Revamped Google Voice has five new features you really need to check out – CNET

Another big change includes the ability to do a group message. It seems that the new interface is very similar to other messaging apps, which brings the service back to being a viable option for virtual calling. Google never fails to surprise me.

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