Wednesday, November 21, 2007
GrandCentral (easy-to-use phone management)
Now, here is a "telephone management" service that actually works! Another Google "invention," this service is free during the beta phase. One can go to GrandCentral to request to be a masterbeta tester, just like me.
The best part about their service, which I quote directly from their FAQ: "We've tapped into VoIP technology to build our service, but GrandCentral works with cell phones, desk phones, VoIP lines, and everything in between. There's nothing to download, upload, or install. And you don't have to make or take calls using a computer."
In less than 30 minutes, I signed up for a "virtual phone number" in my area (Palm Springs, CA), and was able to diddle with a few of the settings and place several "test calls" to ensure that the features actually worked as described.
My situation involves always forwarding my business cell and personal cell to my GrandCentral number; that way, I can manage all my cell phones (3 total) from one phone.
I programmed GrandCentral to forward all of those calls (plus any calls directly made to my GrandCentral number) directly to my unlisted private cell number. When I make a call from the GrandCentral web page (or via their site on my MOTO RAZR V3xx web browser), the caller sees my GrandCentral number in their Caller ID, not any of my other phone numbers, which is sweet.
The features that GrandCentral offer are too numerous to mention here, but include audio Caller ID (for when visual Caller ID just isn't enough or the caller is Unknown); listening in while someone is leaving a voice mail message and then pushing a button on the keypad to retrieve the call while the caller is leaving the message; customized voice mail messages specific to callers in your GrandCentral address book; a variety of phone rings (or humorous voice announcements) the caller hears when they contact you at GrandCentral (customizable for each address book contact); compatibility with some cell phones to access some GrandCentral features via a mobile web browser. (Be sure you have a flat rate data or web package with your phone carrier if you plan on using this feature often.)
It's important to note that not all features of the mobile access work on all cell phones. Case in point, on my MOTO RAZR V3xx, I cannot play the voicemail messages because of how my phone defines those particular MP3 files. I thought the workaround for this would be to install the Opera Mini browser application (which GrandCentral recommends); however that did not resolve the issue. I sent some feedback to GrandCentral to find out if they have any suggestions.
On a positive note, since downloading the Opera Mini browser application on my phone, I have to say that it is 1,000 times better than the Opera 8.0 browser that MOTO (or AT&T) preinstalls with this model phone. In fact, it's definitely the best browser I've used on any cell phone.
From a business standpoint, GrandCentral really helps me because I am able to place a WebCall button on my proofreading web site (several styles to choose from) for potential clients to call me. All they have to do is click on the button and enter their telephone number. GrandCentral then calls me and connects me seamlessly to the potential new client. I also put a GrandCentral button on my activism web site and this blog to make it easy for folks to reach me.
Tired of annoying sales calls? calls from ex-significant others? calls from pesky collection agencies? Simply add the person or company to your address book and program that caller to 1) Always go to voice mail; 2) Always go to SPAM voice mail; 3) Play a recording such as "The number you have reached is no longer in service." If you select No. 3 above, you'll never get the call, but GrandCentral will keep track of the attempted call in your phone log, which is nice in case you want to be aware of who tried to contact you.
These are some of the features that paid services such as TalkPlus supposedly offer; however as mentioned in a previous post on this blog, many of the TalkPlus features failed more often than not. A similar outfit, RingCentral (which offers even more features than TalkPlus), has failed to return my inquiry to them after more than 24 hours, which is surprising as their web site is rather impressive.
Apparently, from my recent experience, GrandCentral should take off like wildfire and put any competition to shame. Many thanks again to Google for providing me (and others) with tools to stay informed and organized.
Click here to see the skinny on how GrandCentral works.