I am a huge fan of what Google Voice can do. That's why I've been calling for a mercy kill, so that its best features can thrive in something other than a limp husk of a service. And now that Google is finally beginning to merge Voice into Hangouts, the process has started in earnest. This is very good news.
Google Voice has always offered fantastic functionality. It gives you one free, web-based phone number that can ring any phone you own. It delivers voicemail messages to an online inbox that will automatically (try) to transcribe them for you. It let you send texts from a horrible Chrome extension. These are fantastic features and I do not want them to go away. Who would?
But Google Voice has always suffered from one huge failing: Google does not care about it. The Google Voice app has been outdated for years. And while Apple is pushing telephone calls forward with Wi-Fi calling built right into iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, complete with automatic hand-offs when you leave the house, Google Voice has been getting the minorest of minor updates.
It put us non-iPhone owners in an agonizing position. Apple is racing toward the next-gen phone call future Google Voice promised us years ago. Hell, even Hangouts is better at voice calling on iOS. Meanwhile Google Voice—which works on iPhones and Androids alike (with Windows Phones unfortunately in the lurch)—has been shuffling forward like a zombie, its true promise trapped inside a bloated not-quite corpse.
But no more! With the brand new version of Google Hangouts, all of Voice's best features are relocating to a better home. Text transcripts of voicemails will show up in Hangouts instead of being relegated to the horrible Google Voice app! You can finally make free Hangouts voice calls—that display as being from your Google Voice number—through the Android version of Hangouts! All you have to do is get the newest app, opt-in to the merge, and download a Hangouts Dialer if you want to call out from your Google Voice number. We are headed in the right direction.
Google Voice has been a shell of its potential self for years now, and with its best features headed to Hangouts, it's a hollower shell than ever. Having Hangouts and Google Voice around simultaneously is just confusing. Let's just kill whatever's left for good. And once Google Voice is officially dead, we can finally be that much closer to a unified, multi-platform chat service that's worth using.