I've been frustrated for some time by Google Voice's problems in working with other smartphone apps, even on its native Android turf. There is talk of a coming integration with Hangouts, or some other major upgrade, but for now, Google Voice doesn't let other apps read your texts out loud, automatically reply when you're driving, or send out messages to friends with game links. There are other failings, but the lack of inter-app sending is my pet peeve.
Lo and behold, somebody else shares my frustration with seeing Google Voice force its users to ignore text-connected apps and use only the modest Google Voice app for everything. Koushik Dutta, the hacker behind the ClockworkMod apps, has added a "Google Voice Plus" feature to the latest nightly builds of CyanogenMod, allowing Android users running the bleeding-edge ROM to use their Google Voice numbers through standard SMS apps. You can check out the code and progress at the Voice Plus GitHub repository.
Oh, you wanted a plain English version. Sorry about that. In other words: people who have hacked their phones to allow for custom Android systems, or firmware, can grab a very unstable build of a popular firmware and use Google Voice as if it were just any old SMS number, rather than being stuck inside one single app.
That also means Google Voice users can use whatever SMS app they would like to text. Handcent is popular, as is GO SMS Pro. I wouldn't have known until today, because there was no other way to send and receive texts as a Voice users.
So, yes, it's a very limited group of nerds who don't mind using thoroughly untested Android builds who have access to this feature (which is pulled off through Android's robust Accessibility access). But it's intriguing, and heartening, to see that Voice can work with other apps through standard messaging tools, even it it requires a little work-around. And now, through an even nerdier tool called Tasker, my phone is now set to automatically respond with a "Driving -- ping you back soon" whenever I get a text while my phone is in the car (connected by Bluetooth or a car dock).
I would guess that Google Voice Plus will make it out of Cyanogenmod builds into a separate app that Voice users can install. Here's a big thank you to Dutta, and here's hoping it nudges Voice to improve, transition, integrate, or at least just move forward a bit.
Read more of Kevin Purdy's Mobilize! blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevinpurdy. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.