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August 8, 2008

GrandCentral – One Number to Rule Them All

ss-grandcentral

With all the emailing and text messaging we do it may seem that phones have lost their place, but the ring of an incoming call is still an important part of personal and business life. In fact, most of us have more phone numbers and voicemail accounts than we know what to do with, and reaching each other with a quick call has never been so complex. GrandCentral has a solution: one phone number that will ring all your phones. Once you get a number from GrandCentral, you can pick up a call from any phone you’ve included in your GrandCentral account. When multiple phones ring, you can grab the call with your landline or mobile phone – your choice. Better yet, friends, family, coworkers, and clients only need one number in the rolodex for you – a number that will never change, no matter how often you move or switch jobs.

GrandCentral is more than a number, though. The web application is packed with features, including the ability to record calls, switch from one phone to another in the middle of a call, listen in as a voicemail is being left for you, or leave separate voicemail greetings for your spouse, mother-in-law, and boss. GrandCentral also uses “visual voicemail,” which allows users to view voicemail messages in an online inbox, so you can see who’s left a voicemail and listen to that urgent message your boss left last night before hearing this week’s update from Aunt Elsie.

Practical Uses:

  • Route work calls to your home phone when you’re working from home
  • Get a GrandCentral number for your daughter in college, to stay connected no matter how many times she switches dorm rooms
  • Create custom informal voicemail greetings for family and friends while remaining professional in your greeting for your boss and coworkers
  • Receive calls at a temporary phone number (such as a hotel) while traveling
  • Avoid racking up mobile airtime minutes when you’re near your landline

Insider Tips:

  • GrandCentral is most useful if you give out the number freely
  • Use the “Quickrule” feature to create “do not disturb” hours or to temporarily forward all your calls to a new number
  • If your provider allows it, add your GrandCentral number as one of your “favorites” in your cell phone plan to save on your mobile minutes

What we liked:

  • When a new voicemail arrives, you can receive notifications via email or SMS
  • GrandCentral can block unwanted callers and telemarketers, sending them directly to voicemail or playing a “number out of service” message
  • The CallSwitch feature allows you to switch the call from one phone to another during a call
  • The service will ring different phones, depending on who’s calling
  • The application can be accessed on iPhones and other web-enabled mobile devices
  • GrandCentral does good things in the world through its Project CARE program, which helps people who are homeless get voicemail accounts and stay connected during rough times

What we didn’t like:

  • GrandCentral can’t ring phones with extensions – although they’re working on adding this feature in the future
  • Making outgoing calls with GrandCentral must be done online (or on a mobile device with web capabilities), and the person you’re calling must be entered into your address book
  • Google has been slow in opening GrandCentral to the public. Currently, there is a wait for new users

Alternatives:

Although there is no other application that does exactly what GrandCentral does, there are a few other web-based voicemail systems:

Company Info:

  • Launched: September 25, 2006
  • Owned by Google
  • Headquarters: Fremont, California
  • Founded by Vincent Paquet and Craig Walker
  • Web site: http://www.grandcentral.com

Costs:

  • Free (while GrandCentral is in beta)

Rating:

  • 5 out of 5 (wow)