Google May 14 began rolling out its free Google Voice phone management application to students in the United States, aiming to tap into a potentially rich pool of hundreds of thousands of new users.
Google Voice lets users route calls to their home, work and mobile phones from a special Google-granted number, and make low-cost long-distance calls.
Students may now visit this special Google Web page and enter an e-mail address that that ends in .edu. Students will receive a Google Voice invite in their inbox within 24 hours. Only one invite will be sent per e-mail address and Google Voice is only available in the U.S.
"We've heard college students in particular really appreciate getting their voicemail sent to their e-mail, sending free text messages and reading voicemail transcriptions rather than listening to messages (especially handy while in class)," wrote Jason Toff of the Google Voice team.
While the company is targeting college students with this new offer, a Google spokesperson told eWEEK any user with the .edu domain suffix may submit their e-mail address to procure an invite from the company.
Google Voice users can do a lot more than just route calls through multiple devices. Users can manage how they receive each call, what voicemail message each caller receives and whether a call goes directly to voicemail or to a particular device.
The app also boasts a voicemail service accessible through a phone or a Web browser, allowing users to listen to messages, forward messages, add the caller to an address book or block a caller as spam, among other functions.
Google Voice is derived from assets Google gained in its purchase of GrandCentral and is a promising Web service to an arsenal of Web apps that includes Gmail, Docs and other collaboration tools. Google in March 2009 formally unveiled Google Voice for closed testing among existing GrandCentral users.
Google began rolling out the service to select invitees in June 2009 and engineers have helped the service evolve in the past year, adding new features and improving its transcription capabilities.
More than 1.4 million users have signed up to use the service since its broader launch, and the company has grand plans for the app.
Google acquired Gizmo5 last year and is expected to take those assets and turn Google Voice into a Web calling service such as Skype. Google also expects to offer Google Voice to the enterprise through its Google Apps suite.