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Google has officially launched a refreshed version of its Voice app after accidentally leaking news about the upcoming update two weeks earlier. This is the first major update the VoIP calling service has received in five years, bringing a more modern look-and-feel along with modest feature upgrades.
On the visual front Google Voice now features a cleaner, more intuitive design with separate tabs for text messages, calls and voicemails. Conversations stay in one continuous thread, so you can easily see all your messages from each of your contacts in one place.
In terms of new features, the app now has full support for group conversations, which are labeled very clearly with icons from various participants to differentiate from your one-to-one texts. You can also send photo MMS messages now on all platforms and across pretty much all major carriers, and Google added support for Android's new "Direct Reply" feature, which lets you reply directly from the notification panel.
Lastly, Google is introducing voicemail transcriptions for Spanish and will improve accuracy over time.
Google notes that the Hangouts integration with Google Voice isn't changing, so if you prefer to use that as your messaging app you may continue to do so. The company says it will continue to provide new updates and features to the Google Voice apps, we're just not sure if it will take them another five years.
The update is rolling out gradually to users and will be available to all in the coming weeks.
Google Voice gives you one number for all your phones --- a phone number that is tied to you, not to a device or a location --- so you can pick up, make calls and text within the U.S. for free, with cheap long distance calling, and features like voicemail transcriptions and call routing to your other numbers.