At first I thought it was just iPhone users, but it turns out that since 2:45pm on July 2nd, 2010, people on AT&T get a bounce back message when attempting to text my Google Voice number. This is my main number, and the error is seriously messing up my business and personal lives.
I'm not the only one with this problem. I found a place online to report the issue, and have done so several times with no response or solution from Google. I've been pretty patient, having people use Twitter direct messages as a workaround, but it's not nearly the answer I need. AT&T has 90 million customers (31% of the market), and they can't text me.
Google Voice has been a great product for me, and I've been on it since GrandCentral debuted in beta years ago.. The ability to use a Google-controlled number as my main phone number has saved me money and, more importantly, given me modern flexibility in my telecom usage. I can search texts and voicemails from a computer, route calls to skype or landlines around the world and change carriers and devices instantly without changing my "address" (in the form of my phone number) to the world.
But ever since July 2nd, a big piece of the value of Google Voice has been missing. I can still receive texts to my underlying AT&T number, but I stopped giving that out over a year ago, and had made my Google number legit. For me to revert to the carrier phone number at this point would confuse my contacts, force me to update my business cards and generally be a pain in the ass.
This is one of Google's major weaknesses: no human point of contact. And as the company gets into increasingly critical human-facing services like mobile phones and number management (and electricity management??), I don't see how it can continue to let the machines run everything. Besides the obvious, documented problems associated with over-dependence on machines, Google's growth and saturation into our lives will require an actual human touch. It's one thing to have a problem with Google Docs, a free, experimental and redundant service. It's another to have a problem with a critical device (mobile phone) and service (texting) and not be able to get it solved.
Real businesses at some point give out a phone number or have a retail opportunity for resolution. Despite my issues with AT&T at times, there's an opportunity for recourse: I can call them or go into a store. But with Google, I'm expected to submit my request, like some loyal subject, and pray that the company hears my request. That's an unsustainable model, and it's beyond frustrating.
Consider, on top of all this, that I have years of experience in telecom, am a member of the most technology- and web-savvy cohort in the history of the world and am rather patient. What happens for someone without these attributes?
So the point is, I'm looking for a human, non-Skynet contact at Google Voice after seven weeks of unacceptably poor service and absolutely zero response from the machines. If you can read this post, you are the resistance.