Google Apps

Remove the suck from your phone life with Google Voice

Kevin Purdy explains how you can use Google Voice as a nice little side service that lets you keep your "real" phone number.

From unofficial polling and anecdotal evidence, I've come to think of Google Voice as a great service that comes with a (sometimes) great sacrifice: your cell number.

If you want the full Google Voice experience - free and web-based SMS/text messaging, transcribed voicemails, selective greetings and call filtering, and multi-phone mastery - and your cell service isn't with Sprint, you need to pick up a new phone number that Google supplies. And getting your friends, family, coworkers, and emergency contacts all switched over can be a serious pain.

But it's less obvious that you can also use Google Voice as a nice little side service; one that lets you keep your "real" phone number, but also has a few extra ways to contact people, keep nuisance calls at bay, and even make calls when your phone is dead or out of service range.

Give it out as your "Second-Tier Number"

If Google wants to give you a phone number in your area code for free, who are you to turn it down? Sign up for Google Voice, pick out a number, and start giving it out and updating it for companies and people you don't really want to have possession of your true cellphone number. Set up Voice to forward to your phone(s), but change one setting through the Voice web site to have it show your Google Voice number as caller ID. When you see your familiar Second-Tier Number show up, you know it's a call you can probably let it head to voicemail, as it's what you give out to stores, utilities, people you meet at conferences, and the like.

Keep it for oh-crud-phone-is-dead moments

You're at your parents' house with the terrible Verizon reception, or at a spot where your phone has just completely died. And now, of course, you need to text your boss (and/or significant other) and tell them that your phone is dead. Grab any handy device with Wi-Fi available, head to google.com/voice, and send them a text message from your Google Voice number, and sign it with your name or initials. They get the message, you get some breathing room to recharge or find that one corner of the kitchen where you get one bar of service. If you've got access to decent Wi-Fi, you can also make a call right from Gmail, entirely free.

Make cheaper international calls without Skype

Whether or not you even sign up to take a Google Voice number, you can use Google Voice to make seriously cheap international calls, without having to pick up a specialized calling card or work out a time when the other person can be on Skype.

Use your Voice number as a make-do conference call line

When people call your Google Voice number while you're on a call, you can pretty easily add them to the call and make it a conference. So if your workplace doesn't offer easy conference calling, let Google Voice handle the job for you.

Send group text messages without special software

There are quite a few apps that let you hold a conversation with groups of people on their phones - Beluga, Kik, GroupMe, and even Google+ (which just renamed its group messaging function from "Huddle" to "Messenger"). Some can work with straight SMS messaging, while others require everyone having the app installed.

But if you just need to quickly shoot out a message to a not-too-large group of people, use your Google Voice account. Sign into the webapp, click the "Text" button on the left side (or tap the "m" key on your keyboard), and you can type or paste in phone numbers, separated by commas, for quick group messaging.

Use it to trick annoying callers into getting blocked

Got a misinformed debt collector, overzealous charity, or other badgering callers that don't understand "Take me off your list"? Call them back from your Google Voice number, identify yourself, and they'll almost certainly take note of your new number and assume it's changed, as The Consumerist blog tells it. Then use Google Voice's advanced blocking powers to send those calls into a black hole, and help keep other Google Voice users from getting the same calls.

About

Kevin Purdy is a freelance writer, a former editor at Lifehacker.com, and the author of The Complete Android Guide.

11 comments
purplecoca
purplecoca

Google Voice Sucks donkey dicks. There should be a class action law suit against them. They say you can use google voice then discontinue it with your provider and everything will go back to the normal provider. LIES. If you discontinue online Verizon will not be able to find your voicemail messages---you get an error that says when you go to voice mail that the number is not recognized. Google says that you can call them and leave a personalized message for your incoming calls--LIES again, Google Voice does not recognize your voice and simply does not allow you to make personalized messages. You can't get rid of it!! There is no way to call customer service to correct these problems. I would suggest that everyone who has problems with Google call their number for adwords. That number is advertised because they make big bucks on adwords that really do not even work, organic SEO works much better. If everyone would call the adwords number to complain they might actually start to provide real customer service for their other lame programs that do not work. A class action law suit would be even better. Any lawyers out there looking for the next "big lick" Google is ripe for a class action lawsuit worth billions!

MakeItSo
MakeItSo

Not in NZ. Doesn't say service unavailable at least, just that I have no credit.

levarcol2011
levarcol2011

Actually I am using Gv from Colombia, with no limitations. I love the service. It is most, most cheaper than skype. Calls from Latin America to USA 1 c/minute is unbelievable!!

levarcol2011
levarcol2011

Actually I am using Gv from Colombia, with no limitations. I love the service. It is most, most cheaper than skype. Calls from Latin America to USA 1 c/minute is unbelievable!!

rpender
rpender

When I sign on to my Google account and attempt to use GV I am shut down faster than Hank Williams Jr. on Monday night football...I get the following message: "Google Voice is not available in your country. Thanks for visiting Google Voice. We're not yet open for users outside the US, but are planning to expand our service to additional countries in the future."

mjd
mjd

Chat with GF... I don't pay to call cell-phone (TY Sprint contract).

mcrin
mcrin

I've been using a google voice number as my 'work phone' for almost a year now. Works great, love the SMS feature (rather than having to pay for a ridiculous Verizon texting plan) there is only one drawback I've found. Apparently my co-workers and I like to talk too much. When some of our conference calls exceed 2 hours my google voice call disconnects and I have to dial back in. Now, this could be seen as a feature (hey, we have to limit our conferences to 2 hours folks!), but it is a bit of a pain when we do have the occasional long development meeting.

tech_ed
tech_ed

I have a mobile phone number that I've been using since the 90s. It's on all my stuff. But when my company gave me a company cellphone, I decided I didn't need two phones, so I moved my mobile number (which I had switched between several carriers already) onto Google Voice. Cost me $5, but now I have my phone number and it rings to my work cellphone!

TNT
TNT

I signed up a couple weeks ago and love the service. For some reason the data side of my AT&T service is stronger than the voice side at my home, so I use Google Voice to make all my calls. I also hand out that number to people I would never want to give my real number to. Not sure what TexasJetter experienced with the dialing app, I've had no problems. I dial a number and the phone asks if I want to use my regular service or my Google Voice service to make the call, I make my selection and off the call goes....

TexasJetter
TexasJetter

I've had one for a while, but I came across some limitations that made it less than what I was hoping for. It seems that you can't have the same physical phone number listed on multiple Google Voice accounts. In my case I wanted to setup a Google Voice for my wife, daughter, and myself. However once I listed our land line with an account it would ???move??? it from the other. Seems GV can only have a number associated with a single account. The second issue is that if you want to make calls using you GV number you have to jump through hoops. Their new HTML5 interface works better on the iPhone now, but who wants to have a ???app??? open to make calls? Plus when you make a GV call from you cell it shows up in the history as a different number. Just now I made a GV call from my 713 number to a 713 number and it showed up in my cell history as a 504 number??? It???s a neat service, just not very intergrated.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Are you taking advantage of Google Voice? How does it work for you?