Google has finally lifted the requirement to be invited to use its Voice service, making it available to all US citizens. That's good news for our transatlantic cousins, but not so good for us international types who yearn for access to such an awesome service.
If you haven't been formally introduced to Google Voice, let us do the honours. Essentially, it offers cheap international calling -- it costs 2 cents (1p) per minute to call the UK from the US -- as well as visual voicemail and automatic voice-to-text transcription. You can also turn emails into free SMS messages, and vice versa, which is handy if you can't have your phone on at work for some reason.
But, in our opinion, the most important feature is that users are provided with a single Google Voice number. This allows you to change mobile-phone operator as often as you like, without the need to mess about porting your number from one to another. You can also block certain callers, treat work and personal calls in different ways, and make your home, work and mobile phones ring at the same time, ensuring that people can always get in touch with you, no matter where you are.
If you own a BlackBerry or Android phone, there's an app that allows you to connect directly to Google Voice. Other handsets, like the iPhone and Nokia phones running the S60 operating system, can access a mobile site, which bypasses the need for the app to be approved, and allows you to access most of the important Voice services. For example, to make an international call, you type a number into the site, and Google Voice rings you and then connects you. That's a cunning way around Apple's VoIP restrictions.
Google currently says that it's planning to bring the Voice service to other countries, but it's tight-lipped on which ones and when. We hope the UK is next in line. We want to smash the operators' ludicrous grasp over us all. If we no longer need to rely on them to port numbers, we could theoretically change our provider once a month and constantly get the best deal, with no hassle.