GrandCentral, a grand idea

GrandCentralLogoThis weekend I received an invite to beta test a service from a company called GrandCentral. (GrandCentral was recently acquired by Google; I’m not really sure how far along the transition is at this point.)

GrandCentral gives you a phone number that you can use to ring all your other phones. Rather than give your home, view your cell, help and your office numbers, you can just give everybody your GrandCentral number. When a caller dials your number, GrandCentral rings all your numbers. Whichever phone you answer gets the call routed to it. You can add as many numbers as you want. If you move or your cell phone provider changes, your GrandCentral number stays the same, so you don’t have to call a million people to tell them about your number change.

GrandCentral includes a voice mail box that removes the need to have any other voice mail. If you don’t answer a call, (or if your home answering machine picks up, etc.) the call gets routed to your GrandCentral voicemail. When you have a new message, you can check it by dialing your own number, or by logging in to the website.

You add people to your address book, and then based on the caller GrandCentral can perform certain actions. For example, you can have one voice mail greeting for callers in your “friends” group, and a separate greeting for callers in your “family” group. You can set one group of calls to ring your home phone and your cell phone, and have another group of callers ring your work phone and your cell phone (but not your home phone). You can also change these settings on a per-caller basis. (So, I can have a specialized greeting just for when my mom calls.)

You can also have a web-call button. When visitors to your website click your web-call button, they are prompted to enter their phone number. GrandCentral then calls them, and then calls you. The web visitors never see your phone number, and you can route all your incoming messages from your web-call button right to voice mail if you want. (Check out this feature in my blog’s sidebar. If you click it, you enter your number, and you will be able to leave me a voice mail message. This button doesn’t currently call any of my phones.)

When you have a new voice mail, GrandCentral e-mails you, and will even send a text message to your cell phone (if you are into texting, you may find this feature handy).

All this is free. GrandCentral intends to charge for outgoing calls when the service leaves beta, but all incoming calls are always free.

I’ve found a couple of limitations: first, you can only have one phone number. Once you sign up with that number, its yours and it appears to be very difficult to change. It would be really cool if you could have multiple phone numbers (even if it were just two or three, which would make local calling easier for relatives in disparate parts of the country). Second, you can only have one web-call button. Well, I suppose you can post your button in multiple places, but all those buttons use the same settings. However, if I run two different websites, I may want to have different voice-mail greetings based on which button they clicked on. Maybe GrandCentral/Google will consider these features going forward.

So I’m replacing my numbers with my GrandCentral number. If you want to know what my new number is, you can leave me a voice mail by using the Call Me button in my sidebar (or below), or comment on my blog. I’ll e-mail you the new phone number.

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