Quickstart: Google Voice

posted Nov 19, 2011, 8:06 AM by Tom Pedersen   [ updated Nov 20, 2011, 3:52 PM ]
Google Voice is a handy service that may be used to augment existing phone services. It is not a traditional telephone service, but it does provide an ability use a single number for all phone activity (mobile, landlines, SMS/text, voicemails, etc). This article provides a quick What/Why/How to get a couple of friends started - hopefully others will also find it useful.

What

Google Voice is a free service that consolidates telephone devices and services - work, home, mobile.  It provides many features found in commercial phone systems including the ability to ring multiple phones, transcribe/email voice messages, call routing schedules, call screening and more. It also comes in handy for those with limited long distance, in that, all domestic (USA) calls are free when placed through Google Voice. A complete overview of Google Voice is available @ www.google.com/support/voice - well worth the read.

Why 

I started using Google Voice a few years ago to compensate for limited voice calling plan combined with poor cell coverage in our neighborhood. It is now used for most of my personal phone chatter, routing calls  and dealing with text and voice messages via the browser - much more comfortable than working exclusively on a smartphone handset.

Google Voice may also be quite useful to part-time or small businesses who want to keep business communications separate while using personal devices. For those who wander, Google Voice calls and messages can be routed to nearby phones or computers when in the office or even traditional (non-smart) cell phones when on the road.  Google Voice numbers are also portable, you may move your number to another provider (e.g. VoIP provider) if you outgrow the service.

How

Here is a quick step-by-step for setting up a new Google Voice number. 

Prerequisites

  • A Google Account (gmail) is required - Sign in or Signup, if necessary
  • Touch-tone capable phone 
  • A good web browser - I like Firefox or Chrome

Set-up (Google HELP HERE)

  1. Set up a new Voice account using this link - voice.google.com 
  2. Follow prompts: specifically the “I want a new number” option - More Details HERE
  3. Enter your area code and optional word or phrase in “Choose your Number” dialog 
    (Note: you may/may not find a number in your exact location, choose carefully, see quirks below)
  4. Enter Voicemail PIN, Read & Accept Terms & Conditions and Continue
  5. Enter your home or mobile phone number to complete the setup (“Forwarding Phone”) 
  6. The forwarding phone will ring - follow audio instructions to complete activation
That's it … You will receive a welcome v/email and see your inbox when you visit voice.google.com.

Usage

Goolge Voice may take a little getting-used-to, but is pretty easy to use once you understand the concept and work your way through initial settings.   The follow provides a quick summary of common functions.  

Settings
Google Voice settings are adjusted via the 'gear' thingy in upper right of main screen  (voice.google.com).  You will minimally want to set forwarding phones and review voicemail and text messaging options - voicemail transcripts and call screening are exceptionally handy features.   

Placing Calls (Google HELP HERE)

Outbound calls must be initiated via Google Voice to take advantage of free long distance or international calling rates. Calls can be placed via 
voice.google.com using the CALL button, via the Google Voice App on a smartphone or through your computer using the Gmail Call Phones button. o

Making calls through the webpage (see right) uses a slightly different call sequence.  When you enter a phone number (or google contact), select your forwarding phone and press connect, Google Voice will first call you, then connect you to the dialed number.  

Receiving Calls (Google HELP HERE)

Inbound calls are routed based on phone settings.  The only unique feature that affects answering calls is the Call Screening option.  When set, the caller's name is first announced, you may then choose to connect the call or send to it directly to voicemail - quite handy.   

Tricks, Tips & Quirks
  • Choose your first/free Google Voice number carefully - there is a fee to change it.
  • Bookmark the Google Voice Site - voice.google.com - GV inbox is amazingly difficult to find! 
  • VERY interesting Quirk - you can’t cancel a Google Voice account (yet!). But, you can quietly ignore an unused Google Voice number (perma Do-not-Disturb)
  • Reliability and call quality is usually pretty good ... but … the service does ride on the public Internet so mileage may vary.
MORE than Enough - hope it helps