Is Google Voice a Killer App for Productivity?

I'm all for any gadget, gizmo, or service that streamlines your life, which is why I've been checking out Google Voice and eagerly waiting for my invitation to try it to arrive.

In case you hadn't heard about it yet, Google Voice is a free Internet service that use VoIP to link all your phone numbers together. You get a Google Voice number; when people call you at that number, the call is automatically routed to your home, work, or cell phone -- or any combination you specify, including all of them.

Sweet. This has the potential to make my life so much more productive. Number portability was great when it came out, but this takes it to the next level.

For example, one of my friends sports two cell phones, a BlackBerry, two office numbers, a home number, and a home-office number. (Yes, his business card is oversized.) Trying to track him by phone down can involve 7 calls -- and may ultimately end up with me leaving a voicemail anyway. How much easier would it be for me to dial just one number and, if I get voicemail, know that he's just not available at the moment?

And from my end, I know it's a pain when I'm working on-site with a client. I have to remember to forward my office line to my cell phone or my on-site landline, and then un-forward it when I get home.

There are tons of other cool benefits with Google Voice, too. It supports robust SMS, you can personalize greetings by caller, do conferencing calling, get voicemail transcripts (yep, read your voicemail instead of listening to it), and so on.

Yes, there are potentially some downsides. Michael Arrington, writing on TechCrunch, notes that there are costs associated with getting a new Google Voice number, even if the number itself is free (think new business cards, for one). Assimilating a brand-new phone number into your life can be troublesome as well.

And your outbound calls and outbound text messages reveal the phone number of the device you are calling from, not your Google Voice number, which means recipients might call you back directly to your device -- which sort of defeats the purpose.

But, says Arrington, Google has plans to deal with these issues. For one, they'll roll out number portability as a feature later this year, which mean you'll be able to move one of your existing phone numbers over to Google.

So I'm psyched to give it a try. If you're interested, get yourself an invitation to Google Voice. And tell me what you think in the comments section.