Google has blurred the line again as it brings on a commercial partner Sprint to offer an integrated Google Voice product to all Sprint subscribers. The improved Google Voice platform allows Sprint mobile subscribers to use their existing mobile number as a Google voice number and requires much less work than it did previously.
The benefit of the partnership is that it works for all Sprint subscribers and does not depend on users having the latest smart phones to use it. The cost benefits is that much of the developments in voicemail and even smart phone diversions will be progressively taken over by Google. Google wins with a large mobile carrier partner to gain insight into how to improve its products and Sprint wins with the ability to offer it’s subscribers an exclusive wireless product.
No more anti-trust issues for AT&T
This will likely reduce the number of regulatory issues with that might have come out of yesterday’s announcement that AT&T plans to buy T-Mobile. The move towards a commercial partnership with Google is needed as Sprint is still well behind Verizon Wireless but that also shifts toward a power vacuum that only Microsoft will be able to quickly fill. Verizon Wireless will likely have to examine a larger move beyond last years exclusive deal to offer Bing for Mobile to Verizon users running Android but maybe Facebook will take the time to buy up Skype and finally enter the mobile space.
The benefit to Google & Sprint based on the arrangement appears to be
- Calls to a Sprint mobile number can be answered inside Gmail or from office or home phone
- Any calls or sms sent from within Gmail will also display their Sprint number
- Any Sprint subscribers wanting to use Google Voice will not have to port their numbers
- The new Nexus S 4G runs on Sprint’s WiMax network
Within Australia there is a limited number of providers that currently offer 4G such as Vivid but the only widespread coverage is currently available via providers such as Optus Mobile Broadband. It will be interesting to see which is the first provider in Australia that will partner with Google to offer a similar product to their users but it’s likely to be Optus based on their recent Google Apps deal.
Using Google Voice domestically?
No, it appears under the new system subscribers domestic calls will only travel on the Sprint phone network to maintain quality.
Lower standards of international calls?
The question is how how users will find the level of service and phone call quality as any outgoing international calls will run via Google’s voice system which is similar in quality and cost to Skype.
Limitations of Sprint & Google Partnership
- Google Voice is only for US residents
- It is being rolled out gradually over the next few weeks
- It is not available on Boost Mobile their prepaid mobile service
- Google Voice can’t handle MMS messages (text/photo/video)
Benefits of Sprint & Google Partnership
- It’s much easier to choose Google Voice over Skype
- There is no need to download an app
- Sprint users can display their phone number when calling from Gmail
- Low-cost international calls similar to Skype
What types of bonus features does Google Voice offer
- Advanced Call Screening
- Voicemail Transcription
- Advanced Phone Number Blocking
- Switch call from phone-to-phone while on a call
- Free conference calling
- Personal voicemail greetings based on caller
It is a very interesting launch partnership that has combined with the launch of Google’s new Nexus S 4G mobile phone but it will be interesting to see how Microsoft moves to counter the partnership. The bigger issue might be the number of phone manufactures that currently supply devices to Sprint as Google is expanding their footprint and stepping on more than a few toes in the process. They can now offer the following products to Sprint customers, Google Voice enabled on all phones, phones running on Google Android OS and Google Nexus S 4G devices.