gaga over grand central

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I had seen a few references lately to the Grand Central service that Google purchased, but it wasn't until I saw a Twitter about it from Gina Trapani, life hacker extraordinaire, that I decided to take a closer look at it. After I read a bit on their web page, I immediately wanted in...and managed to find a friend with an invitation still available.

So, what exactly is it?

In a nutshell, they issue you a new phone number (you get to choose the area code, then select from a set of numbers). You can then have that phone number ring as many of your existing phones as you'd like when it's called. You can set times of day for some numbers, and you can customized what happens based on who's calling you. When you get a call, it shows up on your phone as your Grand Central number. But when you answer it, the system doesn't immediately connect you to the caller. Instead, it tells you who is calling (by name if they're in your address book), and asks if you want to take the call, send it to voicemail, or "listen in"--which allows you to listen as they leave voice mail, and decide if you want to break in and answer the call after all (like screening calls on a home answering machine).

There's more you can do, much of it useful. For example, you can transfer a call between your phones--so if you pick up the call on your cell phone, and want to transfer it to your home or office phone because your battery is low, you can do that with two key presses. You can add a "call me" button to a web page that doesn't reveal your telephone number, and can be turned off whenever you want. And, best of all, you can centralize and access all of your voice mail through a web interface that looks a lot like the iPhone's "visual voicemail."

The down side? For it to work, I have to give Google an awful lot of information about myself. Not just my phone numbers, but all the interaction data about who calls me and when they call.

That's always the rub in social software, of course--the tension between convenience and privacy. And really--is anybody better at leveraging that convenience card than Google?

1 Comment

Um, so do you [now] have an extra invite to share? :-)

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This page contains a single entry published on October 26, 2007 11:29 PM.

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