Phonebooth: Like Google Voice for Small Businesses

Last Updated Mar 16, 2010 12:35 PM EDT

Small businesses, startups, and freelancers all need one thing: cash. Oh, and a phone number. Phonebooth Free promises to save you some of the former by giving you the latter. To put it another way, Phonebooth offers free inbound VoIP phone service -- much like Google Voice, but with a business focus.

Phonebooth could also be described as "like Google Voice, but not as confusing." To learn more, check out the company's promo video (which is fairly amusing and slightly NSFW, language-wise), then read on for my take on this very promising service.



As you can see, there's a lot of similarity between Phonebooth and Google Voice. A free Phonebooth account nets you a local phone number, automated call routing (to your landline, cell, or wherever), a voicemail box (with optional transcription of messages to text), and so on.

Phonebooth also lets you set up a more businesslike auto-attendant option so callers can reach specific departments, and provides a click-to-call widget you can add to your Web site.

Alas, the free account limits you to 200 minutes of inbound calls and 50 voicemail transcriptions per month. That may be sufficient if you're a small or one-man shop, but I suspect most businesses will need more.

Fortunately (and unsurprisingly), there's Phonebooth OnDemand, which for $20 monthly provides unlimited inbound and outbound calling (you have to supply the IP desk phones for that), unlimited transcriptions, conference calling, 24/7 support, and other perks.

Of course, you'll almost certainly want to start by signing up for Phonebooth Free. Don't be discouraged by the "Phonebooth full" message: According to a company rep, new registrations are getting processed within a day or two.

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    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.