Having received an invite to Grand Central's Beta program I've had the opportunity to evaluate it for a few days During this time, I've been able to play with several of the features that it offer. At first glance, the Grand Central system appears complex and useless. This post should demystify the service and explain its uses.
So what is Grand Central? This picture explains the service at the most basic level:
Grand Central offers a single phone number, in an area code of your choice, which can be simultaneously forwarded to all of your registered phone numbers - home, work, cell, etc. Think of it as your universal phone number that never changes even if you change jobs, cell phones or your other phone numbers. When a call comes in on your Grand Central number, it is sent to all your real numbers and you can answer it from any one.
OK. So you buy the universal phone number argument but what good is it to have all your phones ring for every call? Grand Central allows you to control which of your phones ring for incoming calls.
Calls can be routed based on the classification of your contacts or be global routing. For example, you can choose not have work calls sent to your home number or send only calls from family to your cell phone. You can also send specific types of callers to call screening.
The next logical extension is the ability to customize your greeting for callers based on the group they belong to. You can also set a specific greeting for a specific contact. These greetings can be recorded from any your registered phones; so no need for computer-based solutions like recording a WAV file and uploading it.
The system also unifies all your voice mail on Grand Central. Your voice mail can easily be forwarded via email as well.
Since Grand Central is right at the middle of your incoming calls, you can use the service for call screening and also to record calls on the fly.
The Web Call button feature allows people to call you from your website or blog without knowing your Grand Central number. This is similar to other anonymizing services like Jangl. I've setup this feature on my blog (but it's sent straight to voice mail). Try leaving me a voice mail on my Grand Central number instead of leaving a text based comment.
I've just highlighted some of the best features of Grand Central's services here. They have more details on their web site. As of now, the services are in beta and free but this is definitely a powerful service. It's no wonder Google acquired Grand Central recently!