It’s been clear for a while now that big changes are coming to Google Voice. We’ve complained in the past about how the feature set seemed a bit frozen, like Google had given up on making improvements to the existing service. But if Voice as we knew it was dying, what would it become? Much of the focus has looked to bundling Voice up within Hangouts; we saw phone calls come to Hangouts on iOS, and Google’s been talking about its goal towards full integration with Hangouts since last fall. But just when would the other shoe drop; when’s stand-alone Voice going to be gone for good? The latest rumor suggests that we’re just a few months away from the news, and it might very well come at Google I/O this summer.
While this is a very logical progression for Google, having already turned Talk into Hangouts itself, and then merged Messaging with Hangouts, there are bound to be users who are dreading the transition. Hangouts (and all the Google+ stuff that it brings with it) is still a subject of contention among Android users, and Voice has so far managed to keep itself at arm’s length from that mess.
On the one hand, Hangouts swallowing-up Voice could well lead to those new features we’ve been craving for this whole time, especially as Google starts giving it more attention. But then there’s also the risk of alienating long-time users as it moves further and further away from its GrandCentral roots. And what might the Hangouts-ification of Voice spell for BlackBerry or Windows Phone users who had been taking advantage of its ability to easily juggle multiple numbers? We’ve still got plenty of questions about just how this change might occur, and how far its impact might be felt.