A new version of the Google Voice app for Android is now available in the Android Market. The new version improves notifications for receiving text messages and voice mail, provides warning of no data connectivity before sending a text message, and doesn’t require a data connection for all phone calls.
The main thing to keep in mind is that Google Voice requires a data connection to the Internet, although it does not provide voice over IP. When you place a call using Google Voice, which you can configure most Android phones to do by default, the app contacts Google’s servers prior to making the call, presumably to verify whether the call is domestic or international. International calls made using Google Voice are cheaper because they are routed through Google’s servers, although you still use your cell phone minutes.
Previously, if your phone did not have an Internet connection you could not use Google Voice even for domestic calls, although you can place the call, the caller ID will not display your Google Voice number. Now the app appears to keep track of the calls you successfully place so that it knows how it is to be completed in the future.
For me the more important changes are the improvements around text messaging. Notifications in the Google Voice app have been slower than my carrier’s standard text messaging notification but now after the change the notifications appear to be as fast if not faster. Fast notifications are important for people who use Google Voice instead of using their carrier’s text messaging service.
When you send a text message using the Google Voice app your message is sent via the Internet, so it doesn’t use your carrier’s text messaging service nor counts against your service’s limits. Again, if your phone is not connected to the Internet, you can’t send a text message, but in previous versions you didn’t know that until you wrote the message, clicked send, and then received a notification that the message could not be sent. In the new version of of the app you can’t even write the text message if the phone does not have an Internet connection.
Unfortunately, this update did not bring the main feature I have been desiring, which is full VoIP support to make and receive phone calls via the Internet in the same manner as you can currently use in Gmail. Full VoIP support in the Google Voice Android app would help address the connectivity issues I have at my house. In fact, it has been a while since Google released an update to the Voice Android app, so I am happy to see this release.