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GrandCentral hits the spotlight

March 15, 2007

GrandCentralTechmeme points us to a great write-up on GrandCentral by David Pogue in today’s New York Times.

I’ve been using GrandCentral for awhile now, and David’s article does a nice job of introducing “what it’s all about”

In short, GrandCentral gives you one local phone number — “for life” — and then slices and dices calls into that number to provide an amazing array of features:

  • Incoming calls can be set to ring all of your numbers simultaneously — your office line, your cell phone, your home number, etc. You can control which numbers ring on a time-of-day basis, or on a caller by caller basis.
  • When a call comes in, GrandCentral identifies the caller ID — if it can match it to an entry in your contact list, it gets the name from there, otherwise it asks the caller to give their name while it “attempts to locate you”
  • When you answer the call, GrandCentral tells you who it is, and gives you the option of taking the call, taking the call and recording it, sending the caller to voicemail, or sending it to voicemail while you listen in — in the latter case, you can pick up the call mid-message if you like, just like on your old answering machine.
  • In mid call, you can start or stop recording if you like, by pressing a key. You can also press a key to cause all of your numbers to ring again — and pick up the call where you left off, but on a different line. (Convenient for switching from your office phone to a cell phone, for instance).
  • You can assign voicemail greetings, and even “ringback tones” (the “ringing” the caller hears while the system is calling you) on a caller-by-caller or group-by-group basis, by recording a message or uploading an MP3, respectively.
  • Voicemail notices are delivered by email, and by SMS to your cell phone.
  • Calls can be screened against GrandCentrals growing list of telemarketers, and dumped to voicemail – or a phony disconnect notice. You can add your own list of annoying callers to this list as well.

All of this is driven through a very well-thought-out web front end, where you can change your settings, listen to voicemail, review your calls, edit your contact list (or import it from a variety of address books or organizer programs and services), and even place a call.

Other features allow you post recordings online or mail them, and place a “click to call” button on a web page where a user can enter their number, and GrandCentral will call you, then them.

Oh yeah — and all of these features are free. At least for now, while GrandCentral is in beta. Indications are that the basic service will remain free, with a “fully loaded” account quite inexpensive when the service officially launces..

All in all, GrandCentral is amazing, and amazingly useful — if you still don’t get how, check out this video from the NYT article.

In using it however, I’ve discovered a few things you may want to consider, before you jump in with both feet.

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