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Google Voice gets a new look for its first major update in years

Google Voice gets a new look for its first major update in years


Will Google follow through on its commitment to regular updates?

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Google just announced the new and improved Google Voice that the company teased a few weeks ago. Today you’ll find updated versions of Voice available for Android, iOS, and on the web. The service has been given a much-needed visual refresh, bringing it in line with Google’s other apps. According to Google’s blog post on the changes, “your inbox now has separate tabs for text messages, calls and voicemails. Conversations stay in one continuous thread, so you can easily see all your messages from each of your contacts in one place.”

Aside from simply bringing Voice up to date aesthetically, the upgraded app carries over some features that until now were only available for users who had switched to Hangouts for some Voice functions like texting and voicemail. For one, photo MMS is now supported by Google Voice on all platforms and across pretty much all major carriers. Images show up inline in your conversations, and firing off your own is as easy as any other texting app. That sounds like basic functionality, but MMS has been a longtime sore spot for Voice. No more emails with MMS attachments or other weird workarounds.

Group texting has also been added to the main Voice apps — no Hangouts required. This is another crucially important feature to many people that Google Voice has been bad at until now. With today’s update, group conversations are labeled very clearly and should work as you’d expect them to.

Voicemail transcriptions are still in there too. And with this update, Google is introducing voicemail transcriptions for Spanish. Other nice touches I’ve noticed in a few days spent testing the new Google Voice include: in-notification replies on Android (but sadly not iOS), 3D Touch support for iPhone (mostly in Messages view), and a user experience that finally feels less like a relic from the early App Store days. This is what the Android version looked like in the year 2017 before today’s redesign:

Those days are thankfully over. Speaking of which, Google claims it’s committed to preventing Voice from falling into the neglected state it was stuck in prior to today. The company says users can expect “regular” updates and new features for the mobile apps and web client, though it offers no estimate on how often they’ll arrive. Let’s just say that Google has a lot to prove if it wants to convince anyone that Voice is a priority again. One thing a spokesperson has already confirmed to The Verge is that Google is working to implement RCS messaging in Voice.

But today is just step one, a redesign that seems more about making up for lost time than reinventing what Google Voice is. If you’ve already moved your Voice account into Hangouts (and you actually still use Hangouts), the blog post says there’s “no need to change to the new apps, but you might want to try them out as we continue to improve and add more features.”

These Google Voice updates will launch first today on Android, followed by iOS in a couple days. Once your mobile app is updated, the web client will automatically change over to the new design. Everyone should have it within a couple weeks, according to Google.