Why Google Voice is US only

I think I’ve worked out why Google Voice is US only. Or one of the reasons at least. Whilst I’m not based in the US I did manage to get a Google Voice account activated. It was complicated but worth it considering that I had no voicemail service whilst living in Cambodia.

The process went something like this:

  1. Register new Skype In number based in the states.
  2. Set up US proxy to login to Google Voice
  3. Apply for new Google Voice number using my US Skype In number as verification
  4. Cancel US Skype In number
  5. Setup Skype to redirect calls to Google Voice number

What was the purpose of this? It meant that if I didn’t have Skype on (which, due to the unreliability of their Android app, I often didn’t), any missed calls would be routed to Google Voice at no cost and I’d at least get a notification via Gmail of the missed call, or at best a free transcript of the message. Considering that I was 7 hours ahead of most of my clients, this was handy for keeping track of any potential emergencies. Yes I could have just re-routed my calls directly to my Cambodian mobile, but at a cost, and at the danger of being woken up at 2am by a client who just wanted to check in on progress or something mundane that didn’t require immediate attention.

So what’s the problem?

Well, the problem is that Google Voice does a horrendous job of guessing what people are saying. I don’t know whether this is a more generic issue, or whether its exaggerated by the fact that I’m getting it to transcribe Irish accented voice mails.

Check this most recent transcription out:

Dallas teaching here. Just wanted to web page town and Yeah, Monday, at the sorry it’s Tuesday noon today night i can assure that kind of [phone number redacted], Latrice okay. No one quotes at the moment coming through tomorrow. Yeah but I will talk tonight and content. All of the website, so all the time. If you have a good online presence. Let’s just got back at the topic of the here and community back punk rock. Bye bye.

“… and community back punk rock. Bye bye.” What an awesome way to finish your voice mail.

Ultimately the message turned out to be from a client who thought their website might be down (if it was, this particular client should be calling their hosting company not me as we don’t handle their hosting anymore). I’m quite sure that there is no realistic way you could gather that from the above transcription.

It looks like voice transcription has a long way to go..

Comments

  • Aliasgar Babat

    I don’t agree with your article. I have my friends in India, Japan etc. and we interact quite often using Google Voice. So Google voice has its presence worldwide. Yeah, but when I conduct business meetings I use RHUB b/c security is what I need for my online meetings.

    • Hey Aliasgar,

      Please note this articles was published nearly two years ago – so it’s possible that Google has vastly improved their speech recognition, especially for international speech, in that time.

      Certainly I’ve noticed big improvements in Google Now recognising what I’m saying whereas when it first launched on Android it really struggled to work it out.