Skydeck mobile in-box mashes in Google Voice

A text and voicemail in-box integrates enough of Google Voice's offerings to bring you free voicemail transcription and the ability to forward missed calls to your Google Voice number.

Skydeck is just one company using the in-box metaphor to manage text messages and voicemail. (Credit: Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET)

In the tech world, if you can't beat 'em, you can always join 'em, or at least integrate their service into yours. This is the approach that mobile phone manager Skydeck is taking with Google Voice, and it's a good one.

When we demoed Skydeck in April, it struck us as a useful service for managing your contacts, calls, and voicemail online as you would your e-mail. Never mind that its online interface isn't as slick or easy to use as competitors' services (like RocketVox or Dashwire). And like its technological cohort, we figured Skydeck was surely in danger of having its users swallowed up by Google Voice once that behemoth of a calling service opened up to all.

Skydeck's solution, unveiled earlier this week, is to integrate partial support for Google Voice. The gist is that you keep your original cell phone number (which otherwise you would have to change to use Google Voice). Skydeck will forward your missed calls to Google Voice, which can then route them to your other phones (landline, work, etc.) for you to pick up. If someone leaves a message, Skydeck can still log the voicemail with its service. You'll lose Google Voice's call blocking and routing features, but you can retain its voicemail in-box and automated voice-to-text transcriptions. There's a video to explain it more here.

The mashup lets you use Skydeck's core features for free while gaining Google Voice's transcription service. Skydeck is otherwise happy to sell you its own $15 premium voicemail transcription. As that's powered by SpinVox, the cost comes from employing human helpers, versus Google's machine transcription.

Skydeck's offer won't appeal to all. Even in closed beta, Google Voice, which was once the GrandCentral service, already gathers many of Skydeck's features and more, and if your goal is to take advantage of Google Voice's offer to replace three numbers, say, with one new number, then using your old mobile phone number with Skydeck while adding a new Google Voice number isn't going to sound like much of a deal. You'll wind up with one extra number, not one less. Yet if you're not a fan of Google Voice's current setup (reviewed)--which has you sign up for a new number and routes outbound calls through their service--but you still like the idea of free voicemail transcriptions and call-forwarding to multiple phones, then this could be a happy medium.

Skydeck is available for Windows Mobile 6.x, Android, and BlackBerry phones running version 4.2 of the operating system or higher. Skydeck and Google Voice are currently available in the U.S.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.