Here is my experience with Google Voice.
Price: Free. Big
score. There is a registration process that requires your gmail ID.
Functions: (This is not all encompassing) Voicemail, SMS texting, call logs, ability for long distance calling, auto-forwarding, vmail to text, email notifications, options for call screening, passing caller ID, timed greeting changes, call widgets for your web site, etc.etc..
Suffice it to say it has more functionality than I’ve actually used.
The versatile functionality allows so many options. You can use it via the PC directly or via a phone “proxy”, with the phone number forwarding to any number you choose like a land line or . Currently mine is forwarded to two different phones for simultaneous ring.
SMS texting: The other function I’ve gotten a huge amount of use is SMS texting. Really excellent for productive text exchanges. I use a tool in my chrome tool bars that prompts me directly with a little audio prompt as I received texts. Especially useful when I worked overseas. I could log onto google voice and text with US friends as though I was in the U.S. at no cost.
Voice mail: An advantage is the ability to have customized voice mail respond to individual caller ID’s. Example: Maybe you want the voice mail for a group of friends to answer in a certain way with a unique greeting. But then for co-workers you want the voice mail to respond in a much more professional way. With the Group & Circles tab in the settings it allows you to set up those differences.
When someone calls in and I don’t answer the phone, the voice mail is converted to text and then sent via email. I could log in and listen to it, which I do because the conversion to text is sometimes questionable. .
Call Log: The call log function provides a lot of clarity with caller ID, time frames etc. with the web interface.
Call quality: It’s all dependent on which method you use, the web interface to make a call using your built in microphone and speakers or using a cell phone / land line as a proxy . If using the web interface a lot of the quality depends on your internet and capability of your system. If using a proxy phone, that’s up to the proxy carrier.
How do I use mine: I use mine as a primary work number forwarded to both a cell phone and another phone number. There are times when one number is getting better reception than the others and it’s good to have options.
This service has provided me a fully functional portable and potentially permanent phone number that I use for both work and personally at absolutely no cost that provides as much function as commercial services.