By Rob Dunn
Contributing Writer, [GAS]
GrandCentral is a new and exciting telco/Web 2.0 service. Created by Craig Walker (ex-CEO Dialpad Communications) and Vincent Paquet (ex-Director of Business Development at Yahoo!), their new service offers users a way to take some serious control over their “tele-identity.” GrandCentral boasts a myriad of features that would surely cost a mint if provided by a conventional telco/cellular provider.
What you can do with GrandCentral:
Keep one phone number that follows you, and not a device or a service. Then assign up to six existing phones to your single GrandCentral number. Once all your phones are assigned, you can answer that number with any phone set up under your account. For example, when someone calls your GrandCentral number, all of your configured phones ring at the same time. You pick up one of your phones, the others stop ringing.
Get this: you can switch phones (mobile battery almost dead?) during mid-call. You can screen a voicemail as it is being made, and you can even jump directly into the live voicemail if you need to.
Believe it or not, this service is free (with the exception being able to make outgoing calls via your GrandCentral service account page or from your service voicemail directly). It should be noted that you still have the capability of making normal outbound calls from each phone, of course, adhering to each phone’s service limitations, respectively.
I don’t know about you, but I think that this is really cool stuff.
When you sign up for service, you request a preferred area code/city locale, set up a PIN for access to your voicemail, then add phone numbers to your newly assigned GrandCentral number. After your phone numbers are added, you can start receiving calls. Trust me, its a little weird to have all your phones ring at once, – so be ready for that.
You can even configure your daily schedule so that your GrandCentral number only rings to certain locations when told to do so – i.e. configure your service to only ring your home during the hours of 6:01pm to 7:59am.
All voicemails are saved online so you can get to them from anywhere via phone or the Internet…you can even record phone calls (I think this could be a good or a bad thing, right?), which are also stored online.
Additional things you can do with GrandCentral:
- Check your messages by phone, email, or online
- Keep all your messages online for eternity
- Record and store your phone calls (just like voicemail)
- Quickly (and secretly) block an annoying caller
- Click-to-dial from your address book
- Surprise your callers with a custom voicemail greeting
- Forward, download, and add notes to your messages
Great for, but not limited to:
- Job seekers
- Home childcare workers
- Family contact/emergencies
- Homeless, or those otherwise without voicemail
- People out of town or on vacation
- Situations requiring imagination or general goofiness
How to become a member:
GrandCentral’s service is currently in beta, and new memberships are granted in a similar fashion as Google’s GMail when it was introduced (in other words: “invite only”). However, I discovered if you reserve a number now, you just might get a beta invite after a few days of waiting.
Project CARE (Communications and Respect for Everybody):
GrandCentral supports Project CARE, a service which provides a free means of communication for the homeless (currently, offered to the San Francisco area only). A service such as this can help people get their lives back together, making it possible for them receive voicemail from family, potential employers, social workers, or other contacts. This is a great cause, and I think it’s awesome that GrandCentral supports it. We need more organizations like this.
Not surprisingly, Google has acquired GrandCentral for an “offically unoffical” amount. The Google FAQ states that the “…communications services fit into Google’s mission to organize the world’s information and to provide services and features that enhance the collaborative exchange of information between our users.”
Yikes. My guess is that GrandCentral will upstage (and perhaps in the future directly compete with) EBay’s Skype service.
GrandCentral’s core is strong, their beliefs are charitable, and their ideas are innovative. The number of features are, in a word, astounding. I still find it hard to believe that GrandCentral can offer this as a free service (outbound calls via Internet inbox/voicemail notwithstanding).
This really might be a Web 2.0 service that actually lives up to and possibly even exceeds the hype.