Google revamps Voice with long overdue makeover, new features

After years without any meaningful changes, Google has finally upgraded its Voice apps across all platforms and promises it will release regular updates going forward.

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Updated 1/26/17: Google told 9to5Google that it is working to add VoIP calling to Google Voice. This article has been updated to reflect this news. 

Google Voice hasn’t seen a lot of love or attention since it launched with some fanfare in 2009, but surprisingly Google is letting us know that it still cares about the communication service. In a new sprawling release—the first of its kind in years—Google has revamped all versions of its Voice app and site with a clean, modern look, new features, and, perhaps the best news of all, the promise of regular updates.

The most striking thing about the new version is its design, which actually looks like it was made for the latest phones. The new interface is a major improvement, with clean navigation and organization, and big message windows that makes it feel like a modern messaging service.

In addition to the look of the app, Google has also added a few new features that bring it up to speed. Most notably, messaging has been updated to include support for group messages and photo MMS, as well as quick replies on devices running Android Nougat.

Google says it will provide regular new features and updates going forward, and notes that for users who use Hangouts, “there’s no need to change to the new apps, but you might want to try them out as we continue to bring new improvements.”

And there seems to be one in the works already. In a comment to 9to5Google, Google explains that while the current incarnation of Google Voice doesn’t add any new features for making calls, it is working incorporating VoIP integration to eliminate the need to link your number with the Hangouts app. The site also claims that its sources say WiFi calling will be coming to all devices.

The new version of Google Voice should have rolled out to your phone by now, but if you’re not seeing it yet, you can side load the Google-signed APK from APKMirror.

The impact on you at home: Google’s messaging strategy has been hard to figure out, and a renewed focus on Google Voice probably won’t bring much clarity to it. After Google initially began integrating Voice and Hangouts, the launch of Allo and Duo muddied those plans a bit, as Google began to shift Hangouts to enterprise clients. With the new update it seems that Google might be trying to position Voice as the standalone voice and messaging service it was meant to be.

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