I’ve been using Google Voice for about a week couple years now, and I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned along the way… things related to using Google Voice with Verizon Wireless. I wanted and hadn’t seen any resources out there regarding the Verizon + Google Voice duo, so I figured I’d put one together. This is a compilation of various things I’ve found on the Google Voice forums and from other sites.


Overview (easy navigation):



For those of you who haven’t heard, Google has a phone management system called Google Voice. This is now open by invitation only to everyone! Sign up here if you’re interested. Google Voice provides you with a variety of different voice/phone services at the awesome cost of FREE. It primarily provides you with a central telephone number for all home, office, and mobile phones. It also provides you with free web access to voicemail and text messages, and allows personalization of voicemail messages.

Instead of rattling off all the GV features, I’ll let you check out the video Google has posted (see below). It gives you a pretty good overview. Google Voice - YouTube

Why use Google Voice? Check out this (video) article from Lifehacker.

On to the important stuff.

Calling

Are my calls/texts in or out of network???

The very first thing most people want to know is how Google Voice will impact their current Verizon Wireless plan. The answer contains mixed news depending on your current plan. The bad news first. Any calls you place through Google Voice on your cell phone are considered out of network, and all text messages sent via GV are out of network, too. This is a deal breaker for most people. Verizon & Google Voice In case you’re one of the discouraged, don’t leave just yet. Know that you can use at least some of the GV features without having to give everyone your Google Voice number and without having to use precious out-of-network minutes. Click here to jump down the page to the features I’m referring to.

However, the good news is if you have the circle of Friends and Family, you can essentially make unlimited phone calls by adding your Google Voice number as one of your Friends and Family numbers. How’s this work? In order to call out using Google Voice, you have to first dial your GV number, then dial the number you want to call. Therefore technically every call is to Google Voice, who then redirects your call for free. I’d predict that Verizon will make this more difficult if GV continues to grow.

Update (The following is the latest on using GV with Verizon. [thanks, jay!]):

Okay if you use Google Voice and have your Google number in your circle all INCOMING calls are free. The Google Voice app uses random GV numbers to dial out. These calls are NOT free as they are not placed through you GV number although your GV number will show up on the recipients number.

To make free out going calls you need an app from the Android market called GV. Once you’ve set it up all you do is hit your phone button and it asks you [to dial] or [use] GV. Press GV and press your contact and GV automatically dials your Google Voice number, enters your pin, selects 2, and dials your contact number. You will hear all of this just as if you had manually dialed your own Google Voice number. I’m fairly certain the same goes for the mobile iOS application… though that’s unconfirmed.

Contacts

Contacts & New Phone Number Issues

Another question that seems to come up is how to not only effectively use your new number but also how to easily (re)organize contacts so that you do indeed get the most from Google Voice.

First of all, if you want to use Google Voice, then USE GOOGLE VOICE. A Lifehacker article I read encouraged GV users to firmly announce to to their friends, family, and co-workers that your GV number is your only number… even though your old number(s) still works :). By only handing out your new GV number to a select few people, you’ll never be able to use GV to its full potential, and thus you’ll never see the benefits.

—UPDATE (2/11/12):

This section is not really as relevant as it once was. The most convenient way to use Google Voice is to download the mobile app for your Android, iPhone, or Blackberry. All provide a means to use your existing Contacts List to place calls.

  • If you're an Android user, once you download the app, every time you take action to make a call, you're prompted with the typical list of relevant applications that can perform the action. You'll have the choice to dial using Google Voice or the regular built-in phone application.
  • If you're an iPhone user, you have to take an extra step. If you want to dial out, you'll have to open the Google Voice app and dial the number. *insert Google fanboy comments... followed by Apple fanboy rebuttals.* If you're outside the US, there is apparently an app called GV Mobile that will allow you to use Google Voice by default. See more info here.
  • If you're a Blackberry user, get a new phone I'm not sure... I don't have any experience with that. Somebody will have to fill me in.

END UPDATE—

So… now that you’re ready to jump into GV, how exactly do you “conveniently” call people using GV on your cell phone? The two obvious ways are to call your GV number and dial out from there or call from the Google Voice home page. Neither of those are very appealing on a basic Verizon phone (app is available for BlackBerry phones). Nobody wants to go through their entire phonebook and prepend each number with their GV number and appropriate pauses just to dial out using Google Voice.

Here was my, and certainly others, relatively simple solution, though it requires the slightest effort from your friends, family, etc. It turns out that when somebody texts your GV number, Google automatically assigns them a unique ID so-to-speak that’s commonly referred to as a 406 number/ID. Read on… (More about the power of the 406 number here.)

Say your Mom texts your GV number. Her phone number doesn’t appear as you’d expect. It’ll be some random number that starts with a 406 area code. From this point on, if you call or text that number, you’ll call/text your Mom using your GV number (meaning that’s what will show up on her caller id). Jump down to texting info.

I took the Facebook Event route. I sent out a typical “I GOT A NEW NUMBER” event invitation on Facebook and kindly asked people to text me at my Google Voice number with their name and a friendly message. I disabled the wall so that people couldn’t just post the number there (that does you no good in your current situation). Once you receive the text (should be a 406 area code), simply add that number as the contact’s ‘Mobile 2 contact,’ or something of that nature. Now when you call that number, you’re calling via Google Voice.

You can apparently import your contacts INTO Google Voice (not to your phone) using the technique described here on the Google Voice Forums. This Requires Verizon’s Backup Assistant and online access to your Verizon account.

Texting

—UPDATE (2/11/12): The easiest way to text nowadays is to use the mobile applications for iPhone, Android, or Blackberry. All messages are sent and received through the Google Voice application.

Although it’s not immediately evident you can text/SMS using your Google Voice # from your phone even if you don’t have a BlackBerry, Android type phone, or iPhone. Although one of my favorite features of Google Voice is the ability to text right from my computer using my keyboard, it’s not practical when on the go… obviously. In order to text using your GV number, you’ll have to get each contact’s unique 406 number (see Contacts & New Phone Number Issues above). A more in-depth article can be found over at this LifeHacker article.

Things to note about Google Voice texting (viable to change once Google Voice progresses):

  • You are limited to receiving only 160 characters GV allows more than 160 characters... might be split up in multiple messages
  • GV is not MMS (picture/video messages) compatible.
  • Standard text messaging rates apply when sending via cell phone (all texts are out of network)
  • You can't send text messages to "Short" numbers (such as Twitter's 40404 number)

Voicemail

Voicemail and Using Google Voice Without Changing Your Number

—UPDATE(2/11/12): This is now an added feature of Google Voice. Just follow the prompts given in your phone settings page on the Google Voice site or using the Google Voice application

This is an awesome little trick that I read about today (well… 1st time I understood what I read) that explains a simple free way to use all of the voicemail features of Google Voice on your cell phone regardless of whether the contact called your GV number or regular cell phone number. With this feature, anybody that calls your cell phone (GV or regular cell number) will be redirected to your Google Voice voicemail. This way you can keep your Verizon phone number and still manage voicemail online (replay/save messages to your computer) and get transcriptions.

To set this up, you need to setup a “Number Busy/No Answer Call” forwarding by following this simple step:

Dial the following:

  • *71 [Your GV #] then hit Send --- (*71-###-###-#### then Send)

You’ll hear a few beeps and then you’ll automatically be disconnected. This is a free Verizon calling feature that reroutes an unanswered call to the 10-digit number provided after the *71, which is your Google Voice number in this case. I set this up in just a few seconds, and a quick test from another phone confirmed that this worked. More information can be found at this Google Voice forum post.

Update (Thanks, Vince!)

Turns out that this feature is free but not really FREE.

If you don't have the G-voice number in friends and family EVERY call forwarded to your voicemail is treated as an out of network call (and is charged against your minutes). [It] can add up quick[ly] because it uses a minimum of 1 minute for EVERY call sent whether a message is left or not [since] Google Voice answers it.

Conclusion/Thoughts

Google Voice has some great potential. I’ve only listed a fraction of the features that are available through GV. In my experience, I’ve found that the half-second delay/latency cancelled the benefits that I gained from the service. I also don’t have the need to direct calls to different phones at different points in the day. I use my cell phone and only my cell phone. I do, however, use and love Google Voice for voicemail forwarding. I love getting voice transcriptions (despite the frequency of being terribly inaccurate) and being able to easily save voicemails. I also love the custom voicemail greeting.

If you have any other Verizon + Google Voice tips or corrections to the ones I’ve posted, feel free to leave me a comment below. Hope this helps you Verizon + Google Voice users out there.