Since a buddy of mine first told me about it, I’ve been trying to figure out what’s behind GrandCentral, the VOIP (Voice Over IP) service that offers you one phone number for life. There’s got to be more to it than that. Certainly it would be convenient to tie all of my phone lines — land, cell, and work — to one number. That way I can chose which phone I answer when I get a call. And to not have to alert all my contacts each time I change a number, either when I move jobs or homes, all sounds pretty cool.
Still. I don’t get it. I mean not fully. Particularly with regard to what’s in it for GrandCentral? I get to choose a number for free, for life. I get to receive all of my voicemail from one central location, that I can access via GrandCentral’s site, from any of my phones, or by email. Most of all, the voicemail messages can be saved online, for life, for free. I even get to block unwanted callers, and upload MP3s to set customized ringtones for callers.
But there’s got to be a catch. We were all in love with Skype, and then BAM, free calling in the U.S. was no longer free. Free tends to always be the promise when a new product is in beta. But how long is something cool and useful (or not so useful) going to be free?
In GrandCentral’s FAQ, there’s a question: “Will GrandCentral always be free?”
“Yes, we’re excited to say that we will always offer a free version of GrandCentral, even after beta. Our free version will include unlimited inbound minutes, unlimited voicemail (up to 30 days old), and access to all of our core features. During beta, we’re giving everyone unlimited access to our premium features. In exchange, all we ask is that you send us your feedback (good or bad) to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll read every comment.”
But of course, a VOIP company can not expect to make any money, or compete with major phone companies, if services will always be free.
I truly don’t expect GrandCentral to take off the way that Skype did. Being able to make free phone calls over your computer (or mobile phone) to anyone in the U.S., and to make cheap calls to anyone internationally makes a lot of sense. It’s not just one of those cool new apps that only certified geeks get.
What GrandCentral is offering is something different. I suppose the fact of the matter is, I just don’t get what’s in it for me. Won’t it just make anyone who works at an extreme job and uses their BlackBerry or smartphone while in bed appear even more ubiquitous?