Google Voice is a free telephone service that does practically everything your current provider does, like make phone calls, receive voicemails, and send texts. But it’s so much more than that.
Like many people, I’ve had the same phone number for so long that I can only estimate when I first got it. There’s a kind of convenience to having the same number, just like having the same address. The problem is that it’s not always convenient, and sometimes it’s downright annoying. Telemarketers, pranksters, and collectors don’t care about your privacy. They have your number, and that’s all that matters.
A few noteworthy features include free phone calls, free texts, video conferencing, and voicemail transcription. I’ve been using it for five years now because I’ve loved the service, and I understood why it wasn’t very popular. It has always been a great service, but it has been held back by the second-rate apps. Google never really put much effort into the app or website, which didn’t make sense to me until they integrated it into Google Hangouts. Now it benefits from a much better user experience while still retaining everything that makes Google Voice great.
1. You Get to Choose a Free Second Phone Number
When you sign up you choose a phone number that can make calls and receive calls like any other phone number. Then you connect that number to your current phone, and it becomes a free second line with more features than most paid telephone services can even provide.
2. Public/Private Number
Your cell phone can now become a private number that you only give out to select people. Your Google Voice number can be public, and you can feel safer about giving it out. That’s because of the next feature…
3. Spam Filter for Phone Calls and Texts
Don’t you wish you could just ignore a voicemail from someone you know is spamming you by phone? Well, now you can in just a couple taps of your screen. That telemarketer will never bother you again. It’s almost impossible to keep your phone number out the hands of people who pass it around as a commodity, and this gives you more control on how to deal with these calls.
4. It Saves You Talk Minutes
When you make a call through Google Voice, it uses a wifi connection instead of your talk minutes. And if you opt in, then it uses your data connection when wifi is not available. That way it works just like a telephone but it favors free connections over paid services. If you make a lot of calls from within reach of a wifi connection, this could drastically reduce the number of minutes you consume each month.
5. Customized Voicemail Messages
Not only can you create a customized voicemail like any other service, but you can create different messages depending on who’s calling. So, if you use the same number for work and personal reasons, you can have different greetings that change based on the criteria you set. Your friends hear a more personal greeting (maybe one that even says their name), your business colleagues hear a professional greeting, and unknown numbers get a generic message. And once they do leave a message…
6. It Transcribes Your Voicemails
While this part isn’t perfect, it does serve an incredibly useful function. Whenever you receive a voicemail, you can have it automatically transcribed into text and sent to you via text, email, both, or neither. It’s a useful way to get a quick glimpse at the voicemail before you hear it and to preserve the message for posterity. Which reminds me of the next feature…
7. Keep All the Things!
You’ll never lose a text or voicemail again (and it’s super easy to delete the ones you’d rather forget). The default account has enough space for virtually any individual who sends/receives phone calls, voicemails, and texts every day. I pay a few bucks a month for extra storage because I use Google Drive, but I imagine it’s pretty hard to fill up the available space just by texts and voicemails.
8. It Works Everywhere
You can use it on iPhone, Android, both, or neither. You don’t even need a phone. You can access all of your messages and take/place calls on your desktop, laptop, or tablet. It’ll even work if you’re still using one of those indestructible Nokias from the late 90’s.
9. No Software Required*
Accessing your messages and using the voice service doesn’t require additional software. It works on almost every web browser without the need to install additional software. If a computer can handle Gmail, it can do Google Voice. So, you could log into your account and check your messages from a public library, your computer at work, your home computer, or on a friend’s computer.
* Technically, you do have to install an operating system on your computer and a web browser. Also, you need the Google Hangouts app on your phone if you want to use Google Voice instead of your cell phone provider. But no software is required to access your information.
10. Free Unlimited Texts
Yes, you read that correctly: free unlimited texts. It sends/receives SMS texts to/from any phone via the internet, so you aren’t charged for it by your provider. The only catch is that it’s web-based, so you have to have some kind of data connection for this to work. You could remove texting from your plan if you’re careful, especially if you don’t really text that often.
11. Pick Up Where You Left Off
Let’s say you’re having a text conversation that suddenly gets wordy, but you’re not in a position to make a call at that moment. Just switch to your web browser and type it out instead. And when you leave the computer for whatever reason, you can pick the conversation right back up on your phone. It allows you to focus on communicating rather than the technology.
12. Get Some Much-Needed Face Time
You can also do video calls/conferencing, which is so commonplace now that it’s almost amusing. Google Hangouts was originally designed as a chat room with video conferencing, and it has proven to be a pretty reliable one of those. All you need is a decent data connection and plan.