At the end of July, a small start-up called 3jam introduced a virtual phone service that takes on Google Voice. While each is a beta-phase call-forwarding service, it became clear after dozens of calls, text messages, and voice mails, that there are important differences between the two, both on paper and in real-world testing.
First, 3jam's public beta is broadly available to all takers. Google's, on the other hand, is in invitation-only closed beta. 3jam's costs an extra $5 a month to use (for a 12-month contract), and that's not including a premium SMS plan for those wishing to surpass the monthly 40-U.S.-domestic-text-message limit. However, it can port your cell phone number and has an emphasis on group communications, which we'll talk about later on. Google Voice, on the other hand, won't yet let you hang onto your cell phone number, which means friends will need to call some new digits, but it is currently free for domestic calls (international call and texting rates will still apply).
It's spelled out here in this inexhaustive features comparison chart.
FEATURES GOOGLE VOICE 3JAM Beta Closed, invite-only; U.S. Open; International Cost Free $5/month and up Keep cell number Not yet Yes Call forwarding Cell phones, land line, Gizmo VoIP Cell phones, land line, one VoIP client Call screening, blocking, recording, listening to a live voice mail Yes No Customized voice mail greetings Multiple One Initiate a cell call from the computer Yes No Initiate SMS from the computer Yes Yes Visual voice mail Machine-transcribed Machine-transcribed Voice mail playback Phone, Web, e-mail file Phone, Web, e-mail file Free SMS Unlimited domestic Domestic: First 40 per month Group SMS No Yes Multiple phone lines per account No Yes
Does 3jam's group advantage justify the cost? Should users hold out for Google Voice?
For its part, Google Voice, which grew out of the acquisition of Grand Central, offers casual users the stronger feature set of the two, with more sophisticated calling tricks--call screening, call blocking, and listening in on a voice mail as it's being recorded. Like the visual voice mail service YouMail, it will also let you record personalized voice mail messages, but it's geared toward groups rather than individuals. … Read more