Goodbye AT&T Voicemail, Hello Google Voicemail!

I have been using Google Voice for a couple days, and I think it is time to step it up! I have been looking into ways to more tightly integrate my new Google Voice service in with my phone. There are a couple of key areas to focus on when trying to seamlessly integrate Google Voice with your cell phone. Phone calls, Voicemails, and Text messages. As you of course know, I use an iPhone; more specifically an iPhone 3G (at time of writing), so I will be working to integrate with that. In time I suspect an Android phone will integrate with Google Voice seamlessly. Hell, they might even just give you a Google Voice phone number when you buy a Google Android Phone.

Stage I – Voicemail
I really like the voicemail in Google Voice, with its ease of use, ability to listen anywhere, and the transcribing features. Before today, if someone were to call my iPhone and I didn’t answer, they would get my AT&T Voicemail. Now don’t get me wrong, Visual Voicemail on the iPhone is great, but nowhere near as powerful as Google Voicemail. Now you may ask why not just give everyone my Google Voice number and problem solved right? Well, yes and no. It is going to take a while to get my new number circulated to everyone, and in the meantime it would be nice if I could start receiving all my voicemail in one place. There is also the problem of relaying text messages between my cell phone and Google Voice, but there will be more on that in blog posts to come. Anyway, back to the matter at hand: voicemail. I needed my iPhone number to go to my Google Voicemail when I don’t answer, and that is precisely what I have done. Here is how I did it.

Some of you iPhone users may know about things like Field Mode Testing which is a diagnostic tool that you can get to by typing *3001#12345#* on the dial pad in the phone app followed by pressing the call button. Nothing too special there, but a similar method to this is used to change where callers are sent when you do not answer your iPhone. Now, if you type *#61# followed by the call button, you will see a screen like the screenshot below, which shows you where your phone is currently forwarded to for voicemail. This is an AT&T central receiving center for AT&T voicemail from what I can tell. In case the regular number isn’t the same for everyone it would probably be a good idea to write this number down, just in case you need to revert back for some reason. The next step is for making the switch. Go ahead and fireup your dial pad again and enter the following:

*61*1<your google voice number>*11*<voicemail delay in seconds>#

If your Google Voice number was 555-555-1212 and you wanted your phone to ring for 20 seconds before going to voicemail it would look like the following:

*61*15555551212*11*20#

That’s it! Your iPhone will now fwd to your Google Voice number and subsequently your Google Voicemail when you don’t answer your iPhone.

Hope this helps you. Check back for additions to integrate the rest of the services more tightly.

As always leave comments, questions, and feedback in the comments below or send me an email twothirtyam@me.com


iTunes 8 + iPhone 2.1 = Getting There

I have had an iPhone since version 1.0, and although the iPhone is great, it has been a rough road. The first generation iPhone was absolutely amazing, considering what its competitors were at launch. I was in line for 6 hours on launch day to get mine, and it was completely worth it. After a few months, much of the wow began to wear off after I started noticing what it didn’t have. It didn’t have MMS, video recording, or the ability to install extra applications. Along came Jailbroken applications, which did alleviate much of this. The problem with that is that jailbreaking wasn’t really an option for the “everyman”.

Throughout the 1.x releases Apple added a FEW extra features and fixed bugs, but that was pretty much the extent. It wasn’t really until the 2.0 release that we began to really have the “New Platform” that we had been promised. Problem though, 2.0 had a TON of bugs and flakey apps. Apple hit us with a couple incremental updates: 2.0.1, then 2.0.2.

Some of the biggest issues with the initial 2.x releases were:- Horrible battery life.- Insanely long backup times. (hours)- Very crashy apps

Flash forward, and we have iPhone Firmware Version 2.1

Version 2.1 finally feels like a finished product. It fixed a lot of the battery life issues, reception issues, and overall crashiness.

Along with iPhone 2.1 came iTunes 8. With these 2 updates combined, we are definitely seeing a product that feels finished. I am in no way saying that as customers, we are getting everything we deserve, but it’s getting closer. We still are missing major features that are available in just about every other phone on the market.

I would love to end this article by saying that Apple is heading in the right direction and steering the ship toward the island of happy customers, but this is very much not the case! Apple has been making moves lately concerning the iPhone that frankly scare the hell out of me. This once dream phone is starting to turn into a locked down nightmare. With Apple seeming to block whatever they want for any reason and letting through apps that have little more value than a gimmick, it leads me to wonder, do they want this phone to be what it could be, what it should be, and what we deserve it to be? Or rather have they been in first place in this market just long enough to lose sight of the real goal?

Being a loyal user, I am hoping much of this is going to blow over fairly soon and they will realize the error of their ways. If they don’t, they are going to have a very serious problem of users switching to other options. More importantly perhaps, if they keep screwing their developers, they aren’t going to have enough content to keep the few users that do stick around.

If the problem does continue, or heaven forbid gets worse, it will make getting the word out that much more important. I hope I won’t have to, but just in case, I am starting a project called Apptimism. This project will be for developers to get the word out about their dealings with Apple. It will also be a place for developers to have a pool of beta testers to choose from. Additionally, it will lend itself to promotion of apps. The main reason for this project is to help the end user, the customer, get what they deserve. This in turn will give everyone a better overall iPhone experience.

Best of luck to everyone and here’s to Apple doing the right thing!

UPDATE 10/1/08: Apple has removed the NDA! Looks like things are starting to turn around.

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iPhone 3G (ya ya i know)

Well, I waited a while to do this post because I really don’t feel you can write a good review after only using something for 3 days. So I have had an iPhone since they were first released June 29th, 2007. The phone was amazing then, and is still amazing now. It did of course have its shortcomings. It had little functionality in the beginning, with no third party apps and a dismal selection of included apps. It had no MMS, no cut and paste, slow EDGE data speeds, and so on. They slowly added to the phone making it better and better. Skip ahead 6 months or so and all of the sudden it is no longer a phone but a “platform.” Things were beginning to get interesting, all of the sudden it wasn’t just a $600 phone, but a $600 pocket computer. It still wasn’t quite there, but we held on and hoped for Apple to do the right thing with our new platform. Right around the 1 year anniversary of the iPhone there was talk of third party applications finally coming to the iPhone, as well as a new model. This model dubbed “iPhone 3G” because of it’s new 3G capabilities, also had one other interesting feature to add to the mix, real GPS. Gone were the days of the somewhat inadequate cell tower based location. At first, to be quite honest, this seemed a little gimmicky, and I really didn’t see any use for it. To go one step further, I wasn’t even going to get an iPhone 3G. This was because the new 2.0 Firmware on the 3G was also available on the first generation phone at no cost, so it was 90% the same phone, so why upgrade? The new phone had a different design, plastic back instead of metal, 3G data speeds and GPS. Is that really enough of an upgrade? At first I was glad I didn’t decide to upgrade after seeing the launch day come and go and see that the lines for the 3G were even more insane that the lines for the first iPhone.My girlfriend did not have a first generation iPhone, but always wanted one after watching me day after day fondling my iPhone. With the launch of the 3G and the price drop, she decided it was her time to have some iPhone action. We attempted to get her one 4-5 times, every time failing. Finally we woke up really early one saturday to go sit in line. Mind you this was about 3 weeks AFTER the launch, and still with the waiting in lines. Anyway, we waited and got a ticket to get a phone, in fact 2 tickets, because why not, we were both there. I won’t bore you with the waiting in line details, but it went fairly smoothly. After completing her transaction, she was the proud owner of a 16GB White iPhone 3G!!

But wait…I though you got an iPhone 3G also? Well, I did. I really didn’t want to upgrade and spend the money on the 3G, but my girlfriend convinced me. How did she convince me? Well, she bought me an iPhone 3G! I know, she is the BEST G/F ever!! ๐Ÿ™‚

So out we walked from the apple store with 2 new shiny White iPhone 3G’s!

Ok, now for the “1 month of solid use” portion of the review. Beware, it might get grim. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

I will preface this by saying, that yes I am a hardcore Apple user, and not even that will skew this portion.

After first receiving the 2.0 firmware a couple days earlier than launch, all seemed to be well in the land of iPhone. But that was truly just the beginning. I have had more than my fair share of problems with the new software. Let me start with the syncing. This should be an easy task. Plug phone in, clock sync, unplug phone, done. Well that has not been the case. Throughout my use of the phone, the sync times have gotten progressively longer and longer, with the longest sync time to date being almost 4 hours!! Let me clarify, this is not the sync portion, just the backup portion of the sync that takes place before EVERY sync.

Next we have application crashing. Applications seems to crash A LOT on the phone. This has been alleviated somewhat with the 2 firmware updates that have been released. 2.0.1 and 2.0.2, but it is still pretty relevant. I understand that a lot of this could be due to bad coding practices on behalf of the developers, but since apple keeps talking how they are going to fix this “issue” in future updates, I imagine Apple is somewhat to blame.

To date I have done 5 full restores on the phone, and re-insalled iTunes 6 times attempting to fix issues I have had with the phone. To be honest I think it may have had something to do with the number of apps you have installed. I had as many as 62 third party applications installed on my iPhone, and since deleting a good number of them, the phone does seem to run a little smoother. I have to say though, 2-3 days ago I was so fed up with the phone I wanted to chuck it and get something else, because I had had enough! Alas, I still have my iPhone 3G though. why? Because despite the things that piss me off about it, THERE IS NO PHONE THAT EVEN COMES CLOSE TO THE IPHONE! PERIOD! Don’t even try to throw your crappy Nokia N95, or any of that other nonsense at me, because face it, it’s not as good. If it was, I would be using it! The only phone right now (that isn’t even out yet) that might come close is one of the Android iterations, but I will believe those when I actually see them.

So there you have it, the iPhone 3G has some problems, but it still the best phone on the market. That statement alone should really open up the eyes of other handset makers, because they are doing a piss poor job of competition (if you can even call it that).

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