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February 22, 2008

Get GrandCentral Invites

Following the footsteps of Gmail, GrandCentral becomes more available to the world by connecting the invites to Blogger. If you're in the US, you can now get a free invite to GrandCentral, the Google service that centralizes all you phone numbers and adds new features on top of them (the service is free, at least for now). "GrandCentral provides an innovative web-based voice communications platform that helps you manage all your phones and phone numbers through one simple interface. You get a single phone number that forwards to all of your phones, giving you one number for life."

Bloggers can add a widget that allows readers to call them without knowing their phone numbers. Readers enter their phone numbers and GrandCentral makes the connection by calling both parties. "When you add GrandCentral's WebCall button to your blog, your readers can easily call your phone or leave voicemails without ever seeing your telephone number. You can screen calls, either accepting them or sending them to voicemail, and you can even block unwanted callers altogether."

You can receive voicemail notifications by email or SMS, access your voicemail from a mobile phone or from a computer and embed the messages into a site. It's almost like your phone numbers become a part of Gmail, a service that aggregates all the communication tools you use in a single easy-to-access place. GrandCentral is not yet a part of Gmail and it only works in the US, but the integration is inevitable.

If you already use GrandCentral or you're in the US and you can get an invite, what do you think about the service?


  1. I'm using Grand Central now. So far, so good. Like most Google products it is easy to set up, and the interface is intuitive. I recommend trying it out.

  2. I like the idea, but the current implementation is a little rough for use on a mobile. After you answer a call, you have to hit 1 to actually have the call put through. Not cool when answering from a wireless headset or a smart phone without a hardware keypad. Also, it takes longer to get the call through to a mobile line than a land line apparently so I may only get one ring before the call is redirected to Grand Central voicemail. Signs of active development had been dead for about a year, but there are promises of big things coming soon.

  3. I'm a fan of GrandCentral, and use it more and more, but have issues with echos and delays all the time.

    I wonder why.

    Also, often people get my caller ID as being from California VS where I really am in Vermont.

    And finally... I wish they'd make the investment and get real caller ID, rather than just caller ID out of my address book. I merged my ZYB account with GC, so I have most of my contacts in there, but most folks are not in my phone...

    That said, I'd pay for the service in a heartbeat.

  4. I've been using it since before the acquisition, and I generally like it a lot. I haven't had voice quality or connectivity problems, but I have had a hard time convincing people to use my GrandCentral number.

    Dialing out from my mobile (or from home but when I'm away from my computer) is cumbersome, as I have to browse to the website, find the name and then hit hit the call button, which takes several times longer than just using my phone's phonebook feature. The result is that people are still seeing my mobile and home numbers in their caller ID and are calling me back at those numbers.

    I really like, however, that I can have different outgoing messages for different groups of callers, that I can record calls (even though I'm fairly sure this is illegal in my home state unless I get the other party's consent) and that I can switch from my office phone to my mobile in mid-call.

  5. I like the service. All that's needed now is for the visual voicemail box on my iphone and my grandcentral voicemail box to be the _same_ voicemail box.

  6. One other thought -- I was worried that GC would be another dodgeball situation (where Google apparently buys something in order to close it), as the GrandCentral blog has been fairly dead since the acquisition. The addition last week of the ability for two peoples' accounts to ring the same home phone and now this with blogger give me great comfort that GC is actively being developed.

  7. Google promised that GrandCentral will be added to Google Apps, but I don't think it should be a separate service.

  8. "Google promised that GrandCentral will be added to Google Apps, but I don't think it should be a separate service."

    If you limit its use to those who own their own domain names the potential customer base goes way down.

    I really think that they should end the sharp distinction between Google Apps and the rest of their offerings. With Google Apps I can have a defautl company "Start" page, and easier sharing of contacts and calendars. Other than that it is all the same as standard Google services , except I sign on as me@mydomain rather than

    I would happily give up my generic Gmail ID if I could get to all Google services, now and in the future, using my Aps login-id.

    The confounding of cookies for the Aps vs non-Aps services on any given PC is a real turn-off. And the fact that they are maintaining multiple sets of features for Gmail, Web pages, IG and no doubt other things is a waste of resources on their part.

    You simply can't adequately explain to Joe the construction worker that he has to sign on with a company ID to do some things but will also have to maintain a generic Gmail ID to do other things.

    On topic:

    I love Grand Central, but am not quite to the point of using it as my primary contact number (which I'd like to do eventually).

    I agree with some of the earlier posts about difficulty answering calls etc. I also didn't know that you could now direct two GC IDs to the same phone (that is a must-have).

  9. Any sign of this coming to the UK?

  10. Damn you US-only! Anyone know a way to make it think you're in the US? Like browser locale changing?

  11. Just signed up. We recently moved, and haven't gotten around to switching to a local cell number. Now we don't have to. The features seem great, but I haven't tried them out yet.

  12. I've been using it for about a month. It has been very useful and easy to use. As to pressing 1 to accept a call, that can be bothersome if the phone is in your pocket or you don't have hardware buttons. A nice solution would be to have voice recognition so you would simply say "accept", "reject" or "record".

    The call quality has been good and I have only had a couple instances where a call got dropped or had bad quality.

  13. I've been using it for months now and absolutely love it. I even have it has my signature on my corporate email, instead of my in-office extension. (I noticed lately that when my boss is out and he's been referring people to me that he puts that number.)

    There is lots of cool things about Grand Central, but the drop dead #1 absolutely fantastic feature is the mid-call-transfer. Press * and all your other phones ring. Pick up and continue talking, the person at the other end never knew you changed calls. I do this to and from my work extension to my blackberry all the time.

    I'd love to see some of the voice recognition goodness of Jott added to GC as part of a call-in number. If I could dial into a number, have it recognize the phone I'm calling from and then let me voicedial people in my address book, that would be awesome.

    It is a little annoying that the schema of Gmail and GC don't currently match. I imported all my Gmail contacts into GC and it dropped some stuff. But, since they're integrating hopefully soon there will be one integrated contact list for all Google Apps, divorced from Gmail and elevated to independent status.

  14. I've been using the Grand Central service for several months now. What I like a lot: the call screening and ability to offer separate outgoing voicemail greetings based on how the caller is categorized in my address book.

    What I don't like (and pretty much makes Grand Central useless) is: when I don't have time or the ability to initiate an outbound call through the Grand Central web site, the other party sees my personal phone number (cell, home, etc.), and they end up using those numbers instead of my Grand Central number. Yes, I could block my ID, but a lot of people won't answer the phone; so, I have to let the other party see my cell number, home number, etc.

    Grand Central is a nice idea. But, unless we can associate our Grand Central phone numbers with our cell phones, home phones, etc, Grand Central is more hassle than help.

  15. I've been using the service for a while, it's good, but I don't really understand the advantage of two accounts sharing the same GC number. This was alluded to in a couple of previous comments.It seems intuitively like a good thing but I can't get to specifics.

  16. Good thihg too they've done something, but hope it allows non-US people in slightly faster! (I'm in the UK, and even via US proxies can't get my way in. Not that I'm that sort of person of course! ;-)

  17. @tom:

    Imagine that you are visiting a friend for a week who is also a GrandCentral user. You want to forward your calls to his number while you are there.

    That couldn't be done before.


    If you had a work-related GC number as well as a personal one and wanted to have them both ring your cell-phone.


  18. If you do not have blogger you can find a few people around the web that have extra invites to offer. I have a few left also. You can contact me at

  19. I've had a GC number for several months, and I've started to use it more and more. It's really a great service, but because of all the features, you have to be selective how you use your number. Example, it only really works if humans are calling you on it, especially if you use call screening. If an automated system tries to reach you, expect it to get screwed up because of the way GC technically answers the call while trying to reach you, causing the service to start its recording prematurely.
    Also, you need to work around the nuances of voice mail on multiple devices. If your cell phone/answering machine greeting is less than 15 seconds, expect it to save a voice mail recording of the GC greeting "Press 1 to accept..., etc". Once no keys are pressed, you'll then get the subsequent voicemail in GrandCentral.
    Other than that, I love it.

  20. I hate the fact that people can't send text messages to my GC number and that I haven't given it to anyone (because they have to wait while I authorize their first call) and that the only people who call me are automated services. As soon as Google launches GC with its other services I'll give it another try with another number and see if I can avoid all the phone-spammers that apparently love using my number to sell me new car insurance and other nonsense I don't need.

  21. I have it, but until it can handle text messages (letting me receive them at my grandcentral number) i can't make the switch.

  22. If this gets further developed and get integrated into Android, this might be real good.

  23. I'm with @Richard and @kenbw2 ... come on Google bring this over to the UK already!

  24. I'll snap GC up when it comes to the UK, but the whole text message situation could get a bit annoying.

    Also, what does it cost for somebody to call your phone?

  25. I have used GC for almost a year and love it! GC actually lets you set all incoming calls as being from your GC #, so all incoming calls on my "calling circle" type plan are free. Only thing I would change is have the option of emailing myself a wave or mp3 copy of messages.

  26. I love it, but I wonder when and what they will start charging... I am afraid to "publish" the number for fear that I will have to start paying for it.

  27. GC is a great service, but I am a little surprised that all of these current users haven't mentioned the huge data loss that GC just encountered.

    Around 2/1 all old messages were simply unavailable. New messages were and continue to be fine, but anything before that date is just gone. For 3 weeks GC told people that nothing was lost and all would be restored shortly.

    Now, all notices that things would be restored shortly are gone but messages are still lost. Most people that were screaming about it are apparently screamed out or moved on because 3 weeks later nobody seems to care any more.

    I have limited my use of GC because it is a beta and I always download my message because, well, it's a beta. The data loss didn't affect me but those that don't live by a 0 count inbox principle got screwed pretty good and suddenly nobody seems to care. Not even the ones that took it in the shorts.

  28. I haven't gotten on GC, but would like it for business purposes -- but I heard that you can't select a 'vanity' phone number.

    Also -- how would this work with Googlepages mobile (like yellowpages)?

    I just don't want to set this up wrong in the first place, and then have to change it later.

  29. Concept great but will never deploy it unless they get the "Grand Central" reference/ad off when anyone calls your number.

    For Business it needs to be transparent, Grand Central is not.

  30. Great concept, I could use a virtual secretary. But I'm loath to hand out the number for real until they can convince me Grand Central is here to stay. Peeling off the beta label, offering business grade service and charging a subscription fee would be a good start.

  31. @ T

    If you record your own greeting there is no GC bumper that your caller ever hears.

    A little research wouldn't kill you.

  32. GrandCentral is great. We moved to a new town and needed a local number for our kids school and job applications. We got one for free from GrandCentral that forwards to my wife and I's mobiles and we get to keep the old numbers.
    Most of the complaints I have seen in the comments are solved by changing the settings.
    I also like being able to turn on an out of service tone for some callers.

  33. GC is probably overkill for my needs most of the time, but it does permit me to keep my mobile number private, and it would probably have been really handy when I was out of the country on vacation last year.

    I do wish they'd figure out some way to play voicemail on the iPhone though.

  34. @Dualsub
    The data loss is a big set back for me. While I only use it for personal use I have been turned off that it took 3 weeks to restore the data.

    I like all the features but no SMS prevents me for making it my 'One number for life'

  35. @Dualsub and anonymous:

    I'm pretty sure I had a couple of messages out there on 2/1 that are still there. But generally I don't use GC for storage. Maybe the data loss (at least the permanent part of it) wasn't very widespread?

    As for SMS, I'm puzzled why this would be such a big deal. (I don't do a lot of text messaging.)

    What would happen to the text messages if you had your cell phone off but were at a land line? Would it make the land line ring?

    Would such a feature be used to allow only certain people to SMS you? Or to allow everyone to SMS you without knowing your real cell number?

    In my case, the people I would tend to SMS with (very few) I'd just have them use my real cell number. People I didn't want to have my real cell number I wouldn't want to SMS with in the first place.

    Could someone provide an example of how this might be used?

  36. I've been using GC since just before the acquisition. The main problem is dialing out using the GC number. My phone doesn't have the ability to use the mobile interface, so I end up having to call using my phone's address book, which gives out my real number.

    That's the only problem that I have with it though, the call screening is fantastic, and the online voicemails are great.

  37. They STILL don't have service in Hawaii, Alaska and Maine let alone Canada or Europe.

  38. I can see Hawaii not taking too long, but when it comes to other countries...

    Ever notice the wildly varying rates for long distance service to other countries? My guess is that this has not so much to do with the technology involved as with the fact that many countries still have monopoly phone service, or service actually provided by the government. In any event I bet there is no country that doesn't in some way tax for phone use.

    Getting a local office with enough outgoing and incoming telephone lines in every "area code" to support the number of simultaneous calls expected in that area isn't going to be cheap.

    My guess is that until they are sure they can make the service profitable in some way (look what happened to eBay/Skype) they will go slow.

  39. just got onto GC...but am not sure about giving the number out yet...even after seeing all the features i still have 1 dial a person u need to be logged into GC and then dial the guy...not really helpful when you are on the move(and which is exactly the reason y u hav a cell phone..)but use this with the ifone and then its a killer app...
    but given google's reputation for coming out with good stuff...i think in the future they will probably have some way by which i can just dial a GC number and just say the person's name and the call would be through GC...hmm...i hope so...
    other than that have found it quite a nifty service..nice...

  40. GC is the only phone number I give out. Recently changed cell carriers and asked for my number to NOT be ported, to cut off anyone who had a way around GC. I also like the e-mail forwarding feature, which I set to forward to my SMS e-mail address, so I can be sent text messages without anyone knowing either my cell number or carrier.

  41. dipping my toe back in the GC pool, but a (stupid) question - how to get VM messages when not at a computer? I have tried calling my own number from a linked phone - I just get dead air, with no instructions to get my messages...I don't send text messages to people I don't want to know my 'real' number, as long as the hoi polloi doesn't have it...

  42. Looks like GrandCentral has died. Calls to my number are getting no response and the website is down. Anybody know what happened?

  43. Whew! that was scary. Well it came back up the same day. But no invite button. Looks like they've locked it down.

  44. The option to get an invitation is no longer available, but it shouldn't take too long before Grand Central becomes available to everyone.