Jan 3rd, 2013

Once upon a time, no one could quit talking about Google Voice. It was the hot “in” of 2011, and with features like full carrier integration and a possible future for VoIP features it looked poise to become the next great Google service. Things like a dedicated Google Voice number, the ability to use the service for voicemail, SMS and MMS messages and more all would have looked nice on paper coupled with Google Talk’s ability to call phones.

But things have pretty much come to a screeching halt as we head into 2013. Perhaps the Google Voice team figured we wouldn’t be here by now, what with the world supposed to have been ending on December 21st, and all. Whatever the case may be, it doesn’t appear to be a significant priority for Google. A couple of different things might be to blame here.

For starters, carrier acceptance might be harder than Google initially anticipated. Sprint remains the only carrier who offers full, deep integration of Google Voice with its services. That doesn’t mean the service is useless to those who prefer Verizon, AT&T or others, but we’re sure users wouldn’t mind being afforded the same options.

Earlier in 2012, I speculated that carriers resisted deals for full Google Voice integration to make sure Google couldn’t undercut their own premium services. I can’t say with 100% certainty that is the case, but what other reason does every carrier but Sprint have for not wanting to strike deals with Google?

Another reason Google might not be pushing Google Voice forward any more than it did in 2011 could be due to a potential lack of a user-base. There’s no telling how many people are still using Google Voice, but recent rumors from Mountain View allege that underutilized services, like Google Reader, are always in danger of being given the axe.

If Google Voice’s user-base has dipped significantly since its popularity peaked in 2011 then we could be looking at a similar situation. It’s hard to believe that Google Voice might not be as popular as the sun anymore, but nothing lasts forever.

On the Android side of things, the app hasn’t gotten a significant upgrade in months. The most notable activity was earlier in 2012 when Google redesigned the app to fit in with the Holo crowd, but considering almost all its apps got that treatment then it’s nothing particularly special. The most recent upgrades by Google have been fixes for critical bugs, such as missed or delayed SMS messages and voicemail.

Perhaps Google feels the service is right where it needs to be, but tons of folks in the Google Play Store beg to differ. We’re still without the ability to properly send MMS messages. Whether or not it’s technically possible is a whole different story, but without a full suite of standard messaging features and comforting reliability you are going to have a hard time convincing folks that Google Voice can totally complement (if not replace) their carrier’s voicemail and texting options. It’s 2013, Google, and we want to see some significant progress on Google Voice.

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