49 thoughts on “Ring in the GrandCentral”

  1. Hi OM,
    Many thanks for running this excellent blog.
    Btw, I was confused about one aspect of GrandCentral. If I have registered my landline, cellphone, and office numbers and I get an incoming call from a number that GC has never seen before, how does GC know where to forward that call? It could be my best friend, who recently changed their home phone number.

  2. Why can’t Skype or any of the VOIP providers provide this functionality? This would be a great value-added service for Skype to sell to their users.

  3. Hi Om,

    Does this tool make use of the ENUM protocol (www.enum.org) defined in RFC 3761? I’ve recently seen a few startups that are building applications on the ENUM trial database that closely resemble GrandCentral for voice, mobile, email, text messaging, and location-based services. Do they have much intellectual property beyond the call routing features?

    Thanks for the post!


  4. I’m not sure how this is much of a leap forward from stuff the traditional telcos have been promoting for years – for example, Verizon’s iobi service and the “calling features” they offer with their VoiceWing VoIP service. Companies like CallWave have offered the “listen in on voicemail” feature for some time, and it really hasn’t captured the imaginations of consumers … Maybe I’m missing something?

  5. Om…thanks for the great review. Also, to clarify a few features based on some of the comments posted so far, the Flash should work 100% in Firefox, so Matt let me know if you’re having any continued problems and we’ll look into it (craig at grandcentral dot com). And Sujay, if a call comes in that we’ve never seen before (and is not in your Address Book), we’ll treat it as an uncategorized caller and it will be routed to the numbers you choose for your “Other” group. Also, once your friend has called from a new number, you can quickly add that number to your address book and update the groupt to “Friend” straight from the inbox.

    One of the keys to GrandCentral is that it gives you all of these features (ability to switch a call between phones on the fly, record a call on the fly, ListenIn on a voicemail while it is being left, etc.) from any phone on any network from any provider. You shouldn’t be tied to the services offered in your bundle from a certain carrier…you should be able to have all your features work seamlessly across all of your services.

  6. Companies like uReach and RingCentral have been doing this for ages … what’s new here?

    Does “special softswitch” mean a bunch of hacks to Asterisk?

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  8. We have seen nearly all of these features in/from other offerings in the past. The notion that these features/functions should be decoupled from the underlying service offering is a plausable idea.

    It seems to me that this is a supply chain / value network issue based on cost. Has grandcentral somehow broken down the cost model and shifted the supply chain for offering these services so a new value network can be created providing them a new and diverged path of revenue?

    We have all pined for having these types of functions, but, few are willing to pay extra for them. So the question comes down to cost.

    Many if not all IP-PBX hardware/software providers offer most all of these functions without the added new line item in my expense reports.

    The question is who controls the “callers experience” and who is willing to pay for it, the individual, corporation/enterprise maybe the small business? I’m just not sure who the target is and exactly what problem is being solved. This would be a GREAT bolt on feature for the CableCo’s to include in their VoIP offering. However, then you come into the “buy vs build” decision.

  9. Hi Om, I had one of these phone numbers for life back in the day (2000) from Magnetpoint, another follow-me and find-me service. Until it stopped working and I lost it (it went on to try some sort of testbed for Web services).

    You mention some of the prior problems with these things, but I’m afraid they are key to the whole premise. If you market based on being around ‘for life’ then I assume people are goign to want to know what that means, at least before they put any serious money behind it.

    I used to follow ENUM, which someobdoy else mentioned but have lost touch with it a bit now, but it may be part of the answer.

    Because if it truly is to be a number for life, its portability has to transcend the lifetime of the original vendor.

  10. ENUM can not be the answer. After all the phone number is in the PSTN domain and let me dare say, at the behest of VoIP proponents, these service providers are not required to port the numbers. They can claim they are “renting” the number to you. So what is important is not ENUM or other technologies but regulatory reuirements.

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  12. I think an underplayed feature is the outgoing calls on GrandCentral. If you add a person to your Contacts, a little “Call” button appears next to their name. You choose which device you’d prefer to be calling from, the service calls you first, and then it dials the number you wanted to call. That way, your GrandCentral number appears on the Caller ID. I think this is an awesome feature, but I guess you have to be at your computer to take advantage of it (not on your cellphone). Anyway, I am excited to see where this service goes, good job Craig.

  13. Guys,
    It’s all marketing – sure there are plenty of companies out there doing the same thing. In fact anyone whos is good with Asterisk can do the same.

    But kudos to the GC team! they make it sound like they invented the wheel, which they probably did for the non techies!

  14. VOIP providers (in particular, Vonage) already provide the call forwarding, voice mail, and other capabilities today, and it’s built into the cost of the main phone. The “phone number for life” comes along because of mandated number portability – which is more reliable than assuming one company is going to be in business for the rest of your life.

    The only thing missing in Vonage is the conditional forwarding rules: for phone number X, take action Y. This is useful for some, but it requires a close tie-in to existing address book applications to be practical – who wants to re-enter their address book a third time (computer/Palm, cell phone, and now this service)? And as others have said, it would be easy to imitate.

  15. Hi,
    I m new to telecom industry, can somebody help me understand the call routing feature of this service,how these guys are forwarding the call & where does VoIP comes into picture???


  16. Hi!
    I registered for this service yesterday. It seems very nice and reminds me of a similar service I used in around 1995. It was a “for life” 500 number that never worked well as most of the pbxes blocked it. I’ve 2 points to make here in case someone from GC again checks this site:
    1. What is the definition of “for life?” If the company changes its plan or is sold etc (just like dialpad)? Can we take this number with us for a fee or otherwise? Before I go out and start giving this number to all including prospective customers, how do I know I can have this number a year from now regardless of viability of GC?

    1. The price gap b/w Free and $15 is for too much. Another price point such as $7.50 for 1k free minutes will get my credit card out a lot faster. Otherwise, this is going to have too many freeloaders and too few payers. $15 comes too close to a full fledged VOIP service such as SunRocket.

    This is the service I’ve been looking for but without more assurances and a little less price, I think I’ll continue to be a freeloader.


  17. Hey everyone. It’s been so fantastic to see all of the response to our service these past few days. We’ve all read some very interesting questions and had an overwhelming amount of positive feedback. I wanted to jump in for a sec and address a few comments. Firstly, while GrandCentral’s ability to ring all of your numbers simultaneously is in itself a very useful feature, it is by no means the full extent of the control you have over your telephones. GrandCentral allows you to control who reaches you on those phones, when they reach you, and what each person’s calling experience is like. You have the ability to set RingShares, which are your own mp3 files, to play in place of a standard ring for each of your callers as individuals or as a group. You can choose to disallow particular callers to reach you at certain telephones or at certain hours, as well as sending those you never want to hear from directly to your SPAM folder, where their calls are stored as mp3s in the event you ever want to listen to them. In fact, you can store all of your voicemails for life and use our web features to forward or download any of your messages. From your telephone you can choose to send a caller to voicemail and ListenIn to them leaving their message. If you decide it’s important enough to jump in on, you can immediately jump right into a live call with a press of the star key. You can also choose to record your calls and send the subsequent mp3 to your email or web account, transfer calls between your phones seamlessly, set special rules for work hours or short-term periods, and a bunch of other really useful stuff. And thats just in our initial release! As far as the price gap goes, if you don’t want to pay for the premium service but still want all of the premium features, you can buy a bucket of minutes which can be used at any time. $9.99 gets you 400 minutes which rollover from month to month. Regarding number portability, GrandCentral wonโ€™t do anything to prevent you from taking your number with you. Currently your ability to transfer your GrandCentral number to another provider is dependent on the provider you are moving to and the FCCโ€™s rules on Local Number Portability.

    Whew, that was a mouthfull (handfull?) Anyway, thank you all for your attention and interest. We are super excited about getting GrandCentral up and running and have a whole slew of things waiting in the wings. Honestly, its a totally different experience to talk about the features GrandCentral offers than it is to actually try them out. We appreciate any and all feedback during our BETA outing, and are definitely using it all to develop an even easier and more useful experience for our users. I think that’s about all the ways one can conjugate “use” in one sentence.

    Joshua Chiet
    Flash Developer, GrandCentral

  18. As a pretty longtime VOIP user I appreciate GC’s excellence of implementation. But I see a hole in their featureset. I think they need ATA support in some format – preferably a low cost BYOD format like Broadvoice. As a user I don’t want to have to manage (and pay for) overlaping features between GC and a VOIP provider. I’d like to think that if they “frame” ATA as an optional feature, that isn’t mean’t to be a residence’s primary phone extension, they could avoid any 911/regulatory fees.

  19. Signed up to the service and WOW its sooo much fun! I especially love being able to set and record CUSTOM ringers and even better VOICEMAIL greetings for each user. What do you think your buddy will do when he calls you and the greetings says Hi Buddy you better leave me a message. Muahahaha thats gonna be fun!

    I hate the screening things. asking for caller name and announcing caller name to me. I want it to just ring and connect when they dial and when I answer (IE transparency is critical here!) make it optional a check box to turn screening on or completely off ๐Ÿ™‚

    This service has huge “fun” potential. the hell with the consolidation thing I just love the cool features!

    would be neat if it could “send” the actual mp3’s to my phone if I get a voicemail ๐Ÿ™‚

    I really hope they can hang in there! I think they need an incoming only feature or something say $5 a month all the cool features just no outgoing (buy minutes for that) or give a few say 50 minutes or something a month (with carry over) this would get a lot of otherwise not so inclined people interested just for the FUN factor ! maybe limit the $5 account to a single phone number for people that just want the fun features etc.. I don’t know. something to get the “masses” interested.

    I want this to survive. its too much fun !

  20. Great option for people that have just moved to another area and want to hang on to their old number while still getting a new one too. And honestly if they survive (and I hope they do, I just signed up ๐Ÿ™‚ their user interface alone should go a long way in ensuring a loyal & large customer base.

    Quick quibble: Had some issues with their system recognizing a # tone from a VOIP desk phone.

  21. Service seems great, the primary problem I see is that when I call outbound from say my cell phone, the receiver of the call is going to see my actual cell phone number. (And I want them to know me only by a single number, that hopefully GrandCentral will ultimately let me transfer into them.) Too bad you can’t call into their system from your phone and dial out from there. (While this would also be a pain, there are many phones that can pre-pend all calls with a certain dial out and a pause that would make this work with just a couple extra seconds of time.)

    Any thoughts?

  22. I’ve been testing out GrandCentral lately, and I’ve run into a showstopper:

    I tested by calling my GrandCentral number from a couple of different lines not local to the GrandCentral number.

    My unanswered calls were charged.

    When I call my GrandCentral number, it rings like a normal phone, but it seems that it gets answered and connected immediately, and then they just play a ringing tone, which seems deceptive.

    If you call a number and it rings like a regular phone, and you hang up before it gets answered by a person or goes to voicemail, you don’t expect to be charged for it, but with GrandCentral, you are.

  23. I love the Grand Central service and my only concern, like others…that if I give out my Grand Central number and the service goes belly up as they say them I”m stuck with a bunch of folks who have a number which doesn’t work…Yikes

  24. I signed up for the GrandCentral beta about a month ago and have been extremely impressed with the service. I’ve coupled it with the MyFaves service from T-Mobile to get free incoming calls on my cell. All in all, this is an excellent, feature rich service that makes managing voices transactions much easier. Keep up the great work GC team.

  25. too bad you can’t forward your voicemails automatically to email. this, combined with the great speech>text software already available, would make this very useful for disabled people.

  26. Grand central just trashed my cell phone.

  27. The only really really annoying feature of GrandCentral is how it forces you to log into the web interface to retrieve a voicemail by hand every single time. This is actually SLOWER than old fashioned dialing in to get messages. Why not just send the message as an attachment in e-mail, instead of just sending “You have a voicemail, now go get it.” This is unfriendly/unhelpful. I could save two or three minutes PER CALL if the original e-mail included the MP3 to start with.

  28. Gigi — You can dial your grandcentral number from a phone listed on your account to login to your voicemail system and listen to messages.

  29. I have had a service just like this from Bell Canada for over 10 years. Single Number Reach as it’s called now (formerly PrimeLine) allows me to have calls go to multiple numbers at once, have specific callers go to voicemail. Allow me to check messages online. etc etc etc..

    ..big deal, just a big backer behind an old idea..

  30. I went to sign up for ringcentral because of their “rollover minutes”
    What a surprise – they are not what I understand rollover minutes to be.

    Rollover minutes are typically defined as any minutes in your monthly plan that are not used can rollover to the next month.
    Not in RingCentrals eyes.
    They say rollover minutes, but what they really offfer is just a one time block of 100 minutes that can be used anytime within your first year.
    It confused me and nearly got me to sign up for something that is contrary to what i expected.
    Shame on RingCentral

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