Google just did an end-run around your mobile phone company

Google-Hangouts-logoI’ve been a user and fan of Google Voice since it was still GrandCentral. From its humble beginnings of a “phone number for life” to ring your other phones to full desktop calling and texting, it’s been an indispensable product for my daily use. Two days ago, Google finally merged the functions of Voice into Hangouts, its messaging product. What they’ve done is something more disruptive to the mobile phone industry than anything any other company has done in recent memory.

Consider this: if you use the calling and texting features of Hangouts, all of your calls and texts are free to everyone in the US and Canada. If you do international calling, they have rates as low as a penny per minute to many major cities. Just like that, Google has completely destroyed the idea of paying for either minutes or texts. This may explain why so many carriers have been restricting data plans.

But Google isn’t just giving you a way to run out your cap. They’ve also effectively equipped every single Android phone with WiFi calling and texting without any carrier-specific modifications. If you live in an area where the service is good, you can grab T-Mobile’s $30 prepaid plan and use only Hangouts for calling and texting. Even when the 4G allotment runs out, they still give you unlimited 2G/3G data after that. Cell service has never been cheaper. The best phones under 10000 megabytes in storage size are really cheap these days too, making it the absolute best time to get connected.

While everyone salivates over the idea of larger iPhones, a smartwatch with no well-defined purpose, and payments with your phone that don’t eliminate the pain point of carrying a card, Google has basically forced mobile operators into a situation where their cash cows, calling and texting, have been killed in a back alley. Now they’re all dumb pipe operators, just giving you a chunk of wireless data to use as you see fit. You could even use a WiFi-only device with no cell plan at all and do most of what a cell phone can where you have coverage. That level of disruption is far larger than anything coming from Cupertino’s Reality Distortion Field™.

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3 Responses

  1. Karin says:

    A big problem I am having with my google voice (which I depend on for my work) is that I cannot consistently use free conferencing systems with it. I do so much volunteer work which requires more than 4 hours a month in conference calls. This adds up with a cell phone, but it should be just fine with my google voice. I often cannot get the call to go through on my google voice. I can use it maybe 10% of the time. This has been a huge inconvenience…I wish there were a way around it.

    • Jesse says:

      It’s a long-standing problem. Those conferencing systems use numbers in very expensive telephone exchanges and split the interconnection fees with the telco. It’s how they make their money. Google doesn’t want to pay them for that privilege. One workaround is to get a cheap VoIP line (we used Anveo) that only charges around $3/mo plus a penny per minute. That’s a lot cheaper than going cell unless you already have an unlimited plan or use more than a few thousand minutes per month.

  2. ProvoBoy says:

    I use UberConference. It’s created by the same guy that created Google Voice. It’s Google Voice friendly and has a lot of other cool features that the other free conference services do not.

    http://www.uberconference.com

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