DigressionWhen I went to college (yes, there was electricity back then), I took a class in Computer Networking (see, there WAS electricity). There I learned this term telephony. This is not tele-phoney (like "you're a total phoney"), this emphasis on the second "e", and the o is short (schwa), not long. TeLEphony.
OK, enough pronunciation lesson. So what is it? Simply, the technology and use of telephones. Of course, what is a telephone nowadays, but really any medium through which we conduct voice conversations.
Enough digression - let's talk about the cool stuff available now for everyone at home!
Cool StuffI am an unabashed geek. I have been using quite heavily some really cool technology in this arena for the past many years, perhaps 5 or 6. There is a ton of really useful and easy-to-use things here that will greatly enhance your life. I'll start with what you probably have heard of many times, but definitely worth mentioning.
VOIP TelephonesVOIP is an acronym that basically means doing telephone calls over the Internet (the I). There are many free and paid software and services that offer these. I have been using Vonage for many years now, and although it is not the cheapest (flat rate $25/month, unlimited calling to some 15 different countries), the call quality is the best, and their tech support is very good. There is also Magic Jack, Phone Power, Phone.com, Voip.com, Skype, Comcast, U-Verse, the list goes on, plus there are phone systems that your company can buy that are VOIP. The choices are many.
I'll talk about Vonage, that is what I have been using primarily.
How does it work?There are basically two types of VOIP equipment. One, you install some software on your computer and use that to call someone else and talk (ala Skype). Typically you can call computer to computer for free, and computer to any phone for a fee.
The other type, you get some kind of box that you install in your home, and connect to your network. It connects to the Internet, and has a telephone jack. You plug a regular telephone cord into it (the kind we've had for 70+ years). This cord could go to the wall and wire your entire house, or just to a single phone. Either way, you pick up the receiver and hear a dial tone, make and receive calls, whatever. You never know you are using anything else.
My Vonage is this second type. I have a phone and a fax machine hooked up to it (I use the fax machine what, once or twice a year nowadays).
Some FeaturesWith the Vonage plan, I do have a flat rate of $24.99 a month, and unlimited calling. However, the government sees fit to levee taxes and fees, which Vonage dribbles me for every month. I pay annually, so it is around $20 a month. I can call to a whole bunch of countries unlimited for free, plus:
- Call Forwarding
- Voice mail
- Call Forwarding if busy
- Call Forwarding if offline (Internet is out, or I disconnect the phone box)
- Move my box anywhere, I can hook it up to any Internet wire in the world and my phone number works
- iPhone App (Vonage Extensions) - I can make phone calls using my iPhone cell minutes via my Vonage account
- iPhone App (Vonage Mobile) - Works like the iPhone phone app, but uses WiFi VOIP instead of my cell minutes with my Vonage account
Coolness FactorSo, definitely cool that I can make as many calls for as long as I want, and the call quality for the past 6 years has been always very good (extremely important for business calls). Definitely cool that I can move my phone anywhere in the world, and definitely cool that it works with retro phone technology, as well as seamless integration with smart phones, computers, and more.
Google VoiceYears ago, there used to be a new service called Grand Central. Google bought them up, and changed the name to Google Voice. I still haven't figured out how Google makes money from this one (if anyone knows, PLEASE do share!). Here's what this baby does, and it will blow your mind.
You get a phone number, anywhere you want. In fact, now you can transfer a phone number to Voice. I picked mine in nearby Pontiac, Michigan. Now that you have this number, you log onto their web site and configure your phone numbers - mobile, home, work, etc. - and keep them private. Don't give them out to anyone any more.
When you want someone to call you, give out your Google Voice number. When they call that number, it will ring through to your configured numbers. When you pick up the phone, Google Voice announces who is calling, and gives you the option to answer, send to voice mail (and listen in while they leave a message - you can change your mind and decide to answer it while they are leaving the message), or just hang up. Cool, but wait, there's more! You can group your contacts, and configure which phone numbers those contacts ring through to - using Google Contacts (shared common with Google Mail, etc.). So I have Friends, Family ring through to cell and home, Coworkers and Customers ring through to my 2 work numbers and cell. Really cool. But wait! There's more!
Let's say you answer a call on your work line. Then, your conversation goes long, and you've got to get in the car and go, but don't hang up! Just press the "*" key, and all your other phones will ring - answer on your cell phone, and hang up the work line, and the call is seamlessly transferred to your cell - the other guy you are talking with didn't even know it! Really really cool. But wait!
Let's say there's someone who keeps calling you, that you never want to talk to again. Some telemarketer, whatever. You can block these people - add them as a contact, and block them on the Google Voice web site. When they call you, not only doesn't the call go through, but they get the Telephone Company's disconnect tone saying your line is disconnected. If it is a calling machine, it will remove your number from their list. REALLY REALLY cool! But...you guessed it..wait!!
OK, so now you are high tech, and have this flexible phone system that ties all your different phones together into one coherent system. There's so much more though.
You want to call from the Internet to a phone, no problem. You can be in your e-mail (Google Mail), and get a phone number. Just click and you can call it from your web page using your mic and speakers. Now here they charge a fee, a cent a minute to US, Mexico and Canada, pennies a minute overseas. Cool, man. But wait!
Google Voice gives you voice-mail, so people leave you messages. You can access that voice mail from the web page, or from the Google Voice iPhone/Android app. The voice messages are automatically translated to text so you can read and/or listen to them - as you listen, each word is highlighted so you can reconcile its interpretation. You can get the translation texted to you. You can send and receive SMS text messages via the web or mobile apps through your Voice number. But wait, there's MORE. Yes, more.
The mobile app lets you place calls as well, and works like the Vonage Extensions app. You make the call, it connects your cell phone (cellular minutes) through their systems to the other end, at Google Voice rates ($0.00 to Canada and Mexico, cheap overseas). You can also click on their web page to make a phone call, and have it connect the call to any phone you want via entering the number to call you at, and it will be an incoming call. I have been using this to call Canada from my cell phone for no additional cost via AT&T Wireless.
So, there you have it, BUT WAIT. How much does this all cost? I have given Google a total of $0.00 (that's approximately £0.00, ¥0.00, and very close to €0.00) over the past 6 years. WHAT!? That's right. GMail places ads, so I can see how they make revenue. But Voice? Comment below if you know how they do it!