GrandCentral vs. iPhone

I’ve had my share of ups and downs with Google’s GrandCentral since adopting it in Spring 2007.

Like many, I am very disappointed that the service has been stagnant. Google bought GrandCentral last July and development of the service came to a screeching, grinding halt. The developers posted back in April that they were working on improving/updating the service. Since then, nada.

Now that I have an iPhone, I don’t think I can hold on much longer.

GrandCentral on an iPhone is practically unusable.

For starters, mobile version or not, the site requires Flash to play voicemails. So while I’ll get notified via text/email that I have new GrandCentral voicemail, there is absolutely no way to play it on an iPhone. The only way to listen to a GrandCentral message on an iPhone is to call my number and navigate through new messages in an old-fashioned, linear fashion. Ugh.

I could handle the lack of visual voicemail if that was the only problem, as I don’t get a lot of messages. Most folks actually reach me. I can’t handle how much harder it is to answer the phone now.

When a Grand Central call comes in, a recording immediately says something along the lines of “Call from <person>. To accept, press 1, to send to voicemail, press 2, etc…” There is no way of accepting that call by voice, or setting an option to auto-accept a call. You must physically press a button on the phone. I understand the technical reason why that’s necessary, since multiple phones may be ringing and there has to be something that says “this is where the call should go” but it doesn’t make the mechanics any easier.

On the BlackBerry, that was easy enough. I almost got to the point that I was able to feel the corner of the keyboard and know where the “1” was without looking. Quite often, I’m answering calls through a bluetooth headset so the phone isn’t in my hand when the call comes in.

On the iPhone, when a GrandCentral call comes in and I’m lucky enough to be holding the iPhone I still need to press the “keypad” button on the call-in-progress screen to get to push the “1.” If I goof and somehow end up back on the home screen, I need to push the green bar at the top that takes me to the call where I can get to the window that gives me the keypad.

If I answer the call via Bluetooth, it’s a comedy of button presses to get to the point I can push a button to accept the call. This isn’t GrandCentral’s fault. Neither is it GrandCentral’s fault that the iPhone can’t handle Flash, but it’s what I have to work with right now.

There a number of such services aimed at SMBs and the Enterprise (RingCentral and PhoneFusion immediately come to mind) but they’re way more than I need. I’m looking for the simplicity of GrandCentral but functional on the iPhone. Is that too much to ask?


9 responses to “GrandCentral vs. iPhone”

  1. The mobile site does not require flash to play voicemails. You download the file and play it locally. However, I certainly share your love-hate relationship as I expressed on my blog here

    Hopefully Google or the GC Team does something soon.

  2. There is now a GrandCentral dialer available through the iTunes AppStore for free.

  3. Wonderful, Jeremy. But I still can’t review/listen to my voice mail messages directly from my iPhone.

  4. I can confirm Judi Sohn’s observations. Although you can access the mobile site from the iPhone’s Safari browser (and enlarge it to be useful by zooming in), when you click on the links to play the message it opens the player but will not play the “movie” file saying its not a file type it can play. On my Blackjack from either the e-mail button, the url link or within Moble, they all take you to a web address that allows you to download and play a .mp3 file. Either Apple is going to have to let .mp3 files to play in their App, someone is going to have to make an App that will do so (if necessary Jailbreak) or for iPhones you get to tell it send the voicemail as a .wav file attachement within the e-mail. I have played Vonage and Call Waave .wav files on the iPhone 3G and both work now, and I sent a Google Talk Voice message which was a .mp3 file to an iPhone 3G and it played with the e-mail app. So either Google has to change it or Apple, somebody needs to do something, cause so far we users are stuck in middle with no good solution, and its quite frankly keeping me from buying the iPhone 3G! Come on, somebody give a little and solve this mess.

  5. This should be solvable. The MP3 files that GC uses are MPEG-2/Layer 3, which are playable by the iPhone (2.1 OS). It appears to simply be an issue with how GC is providing the MP3 files to Mobile Safari (if I create a simple HTML page that directly references the file href for the MP3 it plays back fine).

  6. Supware has released a dialer for Windows Mobile. It is part of his iDialer app. Just a note for the WIndows Mobile crowd that may stumble across your site! A question for iPhone users though…are you ever “allowed” to download content to your device not pre-screened by Apple/iTunes?

    A similar issue happens with the SkyFire Browser on the WinMo platform but it happens because the SkyFire app isn’t really running on the device. It’s running on the server. So can you browse the web with an iPhone and download an MP3 or is that forbidden?

  7. I am really hoping to do some resaerch on the grandcentral by google. Is there anyone that can get me an invite?