Google Voice used to be one of Google’s best tools: The idea of having a single phone number for all of your devices was handy and uncomplicated in a time of extremely frequent communication. Unfortunately, over the years, Google let the nifty little voice service fall into relative disrepair—until today, that is.
For the first time in five—yes, five—years, Google Voice is getting a major a major UI update. According to Google, the update will make it easier to keep things organized. The biggest new features include the ability to send group and photo MMS messages; in the past, you were limited to SMS messages over Google Voice, unless you happened to have a Sprint account.
The inbox now also has separate tabs for voicemail, text messages and call logs, but all conversations are threaded. So instead of having 400 different entries for texts with the same number, they all live in one place. Google also says it’s introducing voicemail transcription in Spanish.
The service will also look like a modern Google product and not something out of 2011. The update is rolling out now and Google says everyone should have access to the new Google Voice in the next few weeks.
First launched in 2009 after Google acquired a company called Grand Central, Google Voice pioneered many of the features we saw with messaging years before companies such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger ever arrived on the scene. The primary idea was that you had one number that could ring your cell phone, your work phone, and your burner phone, all at once. It also worked with SMS text messaging, and the service provided voicemail transcription features. Using an app for iOS, Android or the web, you could also make outgoing calls from the Google Voice number, keeping your actual number private and safe.
But then Google all but abandoned the project. Back in 2014, we wrote extensively about how Google was slowly killing Google Voice, thanks to neglect and its decision to morph it into Google Hangouts. Ironically, it now looks like Google Hangouts is facing extinction, as the Google pivots the service more towards business users and away from regular consumers.
You can still access Google Voice from the Google Hangouts app for iOS or Android, but Google says that moving forward, it will update the Google Voice apps with new features.