I love Grand Central

I have been playing with Grand Central for a few days now, and I’m in love with this app. I find it difficult to believe, and a little scary, that I now have my last phone number ever. I have moved around a lot in my life, so the idea of never having to change my number again is a bit mind blowing.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, you need to. If you need an invite, let me know. I have a couple left that I will be happy to share. For those who don’t know, here are some of the features.

1. You get a phone number that forwards to all your phones. This means when someone calls, all your phones ring. This is of course controlled through the admin so that you can only have certain people reach specific lines.

2. You get a nice call transfer feature that lets you switch between your phones without the other party knowing. For example; you’re out and about and you get a call that goes through to your mobile. While you’re talking you get home and want to switch to your home phone. You just press * and all your phones ring. You pick up the home phone and hang up the mobile. You just transferred the call to your home phone and the other party probably heard nothing.

3. Everyone who calls you is identified. You have an address book on the admin that you can easily update. When someone calls from a number in your address book, the system alerts you who it is when you pick up the call. If their number is not in your address book, the system makes them state their name before the call is put through to you. This can be turned off if you want, but I think this is a great feature.

4. And speaking of screening your calls, you get a “Listen In”  feature that lets you preview a real time voice mail. This is how it works; someone calls you and you pick up. The system says, “you are receiving a call from Whoever. Press 1 to accept the call, Press 2 to send the call to voice mail, press 3 to Listen In, and press 4 to record the call” . When you press 3, the caller is sent to voice mail, but you can hear what they are saying, and at any time press * to take the call. It’s like have an old school answer machine on your cell phone to screen calls.

5. I’m sure you took note of the Press 4 option mentioned above. This is also very cool. When you get a call and press 4, it records the call and keeps it as a WAV file on your admin. If you accept a call, you can at any time press 4 to start recording, and then press 4 again to stop. There are of course some legal issues in recording calls, so it alerts the other party that the call is being recorded.

6. You can give each caller their own greeting. I just started playing with this, and it’s actually pretty cool. So when your mom calls you can have a voice mail greeting saying, “Hi mom. I’m not able to grab the phone right now. Leave me a quick message and I’ll call you back” . Or as Shaun pointed out to me, when an important call comes in you can have a custom message for them; “Hey Kris, I’m actually out of the country right now. The best way to get through to me is email, but if it’s an emergency, I’m at Hotel Presidente in San Jose Costa Rica, the number is 011-555-1212. I’m in room 814.” .   I think that would let them know how much you value their business.

7. Finally someone is addressing the telemarketing issue as Spam. GC actually has Spam protection built in. You have two options when using their Spam protection. First, you can actually have them hear an “out of service” message when they call your phone (which of course doesn’t ring when they call), or you can have them go straight to voice mail. I’m guessing from what they are saying on their site that GC is going to use a Spam Assassin approach to this, leveraging what other people report as Spam to make a blacklist of numbers to block. The default setting is to no Spam protection, which I think makes sense until you need it.

8. You can change the ringing sound people hear when they call you. If you want to sound a bit more international, you an select from their different country ring tones like Japan and Brittan. You can also make your own. I don’t find this to be useful, but it may be fun if you’re into that sort of thing.

9. You can be alerted to a phone message by either email or SMS. This makes checking voice mail a little easer.

10. GC gives you a way to let people call you without giving out your phone number. You can put one of their Call Me boxes on your site, and people can actually click to call you. They have to enter their name and phone number first. This is nice, and obviously will lead to all sorts of mischief on MySpace.

The best part of Grand Central is the price…free. According to their website, they are never going to charge for the numbers. So when you sign up for a number, it really can be your for the rest of your life, or at least as long as the company is around. And since Google just acquired Grand Central, it looks like they will be around for a while.

There are a couple issues I’m seeing in my use. For starters all voice mail seems to go through Grand Central. Since I have a new iPhone, it would be nice to use my Visual Voice Mail feature, but it looks like I won’t be getting a lot of use out of that. I would also love to use a Grand Central account for personal and work, but the system doesn’t let you point two GC numbers to the same external phone number. This really makes it where you can only use 1 number. My guess is they will introduce the option of a second number as a premium service later.

Obviously Grand Central will have to release some premium services in order to make money. They currently have their Click-to-Call feature that allows you to call someone by just clicking the link in your GC Address Book. I don’t think this will really take off until they make something more integrated with the desktop, most likely a Firefox plug-in. (possibly an addition to the Google tool bar)

I can also see a lot of potential for making a business telephony service out of GC. They would just need to integrate extensions and they could have a nice little system for small companies.

This is definitely a look into the future of telephones. It’s pretty exciting, and for the time being, free!


  1. How do you make your own ring shares in grandcentral? I do not see an option to record or upload your own mp3 to use with the ring share option.


  2. Hey do you have any more invites? Your description of Grand Central seems to be very good and i would really be happy if i could use it.



  3. Ed,

    Thanks for the blog with all the Grand Central praise. I’ve heard and read so many good things but have yet to get plugged in. I haven’t heard yet when Google is to release additional numbers, you know? You likely don’t have any invites left but it would be great if you do.

    Your blog will be re-visited!!!


  4. Follow up, I got this email today at 5:00AM Central on my cell phone and instantly got up to set up my number.

    Good news! We are excited to announce that we are opening the GrandCentral private beta to some additional users and would like to extend you an invitation to sign up.


  5. Google GrandCentral is to phones as SocialShake.com is to email…

    Both Google GrandCentral and SocialShake.com are very unique and similar in nature to one another however they are both two completely different communication tools. GrandCentral is for phones and SocialShake is for email.
    GrandCentral gives you ……

  6. @Lee – Thanks for the comment. Grandcentral suspended the ability to invite others for the time being. I think your best bet for now is to apply and wait. Hopefully the wait won’t be too long. There are also other services out there, although I don’t know if I would trust them to around as long as Google.

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