Google Voice is one of those services that for some is a dream come true, especially for those that feel the phone isn’t for talking.
While true the word phone is literally defined as a device for the transmittal of sound across distances in real time, there’s a growing number of people that given the choice elect not to talk on them – at all.
The pickle, so to speak, is that since all your accounts (bank, insurance, credit cards, etc.) are tied to your phone, switching to another number isn’t exactly easy. It’s probably true that if you had to change numbers, you’d be spending the better half of a Saturday afternoon switching all your accounts over. Not fun.
What is easy however is simply signing up for a Google Voice account and then forwarding your existing phone number there.
A few things to know about Google Voice for those that haven’t used it
Any number than can be forwarded can use Google Voice
The only type of consumer phone line I know of that cannot forward to another are ultra-basic POTS accounts. And even those can have call forwarding enabled for a few extra bucks a month.
Mobile numbers can be ported, home numbers cannot (yet)
There are probably more than a few of you out there that would jump at the chance to port your home number over to GV, but Google doesn’t do that yet.
There is a workaround however, at least in the US. You could transfer your number to a cheap prepaid wireless service like Tracfone, which is supported by GV (usually as AT&T as Tracfone uses their network), then port the number afterward. It’s a bit of an involved process, but do-able. It will still cost you a bare minimum of about $7 per month (one 60-minute card purchased every 90 days) to keep the line active, but that’s super-cheap and not an issue for anyone.
Phone numbers in GV are essentially treated like email addresses
This is a bit difficult to describe, but when using GV you’ll notice the "Google Way" of using a phone is essentially treated just like an email address. And no, this is not a bad thing. You’ll quickly find that managing things like voicemails and texts are a whole lot easier in the GV interface.
Yes, you can call out from forwarded numbers as your mobile number
In GV there’s a "Call" button. Hit that button and this is what happens:
Note that it asks you which number to call with. GV calls you first, then connects the line. This is a useful feature when calling businesses that perform verification via your number (like most banks do).
Hate to text but love email? You want Google Voice.
There are some people who can’t stand email but love texting. If you’re the exact opposite, GV will allow you to text to your heart’s content email-style. It all works quite well.
Advanced blocking options
This is the part most people would appreciate the most, particularly the no-talker crowd.
Number blocking is very easy in GV, as is text-blocking. It’s also much easier to set up "Do not disturb" times. It is true you can do this with most cell phones, but the way in which it’s done normally requires calling into the voicemail system and spending a ton of time navigating through a maze of options, usually resulting in you saying "screw this" and not bothering. GV makes it ridiculously easy to handle all your blocking/do-not-disturb needs in just a few clicks.
Better than Skype?
Even though both Skype and Google Voice directly have to do with phone communications, I don’t consider them to be like services.
Google Voice does things very differently than Skype does, and it’s more or less true Skype users would not like GV at all, nor would GV users like Skype.
If you’re currently a Skype user and like the service, it would be a fool’s errand to convince you otherwise, so I won’t even try.
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