Get a phone number that belongs to you, not your phone [ARTICLE]

Google VoiceDo you ever feel like a slave to phones? At a minimum, you have one in your house, one at your office and even one in your pocket. Half the time you can’t remember who has what number, and there’s nothing worse than sitting by a phone waiting for a doctor, new employer or delivery person to call.

Now you can reclaim control of your phones with a Google Voice phone number. You’ll get one phone number that is as much a part of you as your social security number. Google started offering this service after acquiring the well-respected GrandCentral. They took some time to expand the original service, they added some Google charm, and now they are inviting the public to check out the results.

What is Google Voice

You may be thinking, “But, I don’t want another phone number.” Understood. But, one Google Voice number can essentially replace all your other phone numbers while arming you with powerful communication-management tools. You get one number for all your calls and text messages (SMS), transcribe-able voicemail that’s as easy to navigate as email as well as conferencing, call recording, directory assistance and more. Oh, and it’s all free.

Why Use Google Voice?

Getting a new phone number is a really big deal, so to decide whether the switch to Google Voice is worth it for you, take a look at the features and benefits it offers.

  • One number: With Google Voice, getting one more number actually means eliminating a lot of other numbers. When someone calls your Google Voice phone number, it will ring any, all or none of your phone lines. You decide. You can even tell it to temporarily ring the phone in your beach-side vacation house.
  • Your number: Moving across town or out of state, changing cell phone providers, or even cancelling a phone line will not impact your Google Voice number. It will always be your number wherever you are, and you are in charge of where it rings, or if it rings, your other phone lines.
  • Selective answering: Google Voice enables the ultimate call screening. You can ask a caller to announce who they are before you answer, tell Google Voice to re-ring another phone line, or even listen in as someone leaves a voicemail then interrupt the message if it sounds important.
  • Custom greetings: Google Voice lets you set customized greetings for individual people or specified groups of people who call your number. You might find this helpful for managing calls from business contacts as well as friends and family.
  • Visual voicemail: Visual voicemail on Apple’s iPhone got a lot of attention, but it pales in comparison to Google Voice. Messages left via Google Voice can actually be transcribed and sent to you as an email or text message (SMS). The transcription may not be perfect, but it usually is good enough to get the gist and decide if and how you need to respond. Prefer to hear the original? There are several options for easily accessing voicemail from any phone or the Internet. Voicemails also can be forwarded as email, downloaded as a file or embedded on a web page.
  • Recording calls: Forget about complicated equipment and hardware. Pressing 4 during a call placed to your Google Voice number will start and stop recording the conversation and save it to your Google Voice account.
  • Call widgets: If you want visitors to your web site to be able to call you, but you don’t want to publish your phone number, download a Google Voice call widget. When somebody clicks on the widget, they will get connected to you, but your number stays private. You can also create multiple call widgets and have different settings for each of them.
  • Google Voice widget

  • Caller blocking: In addition to spam-filtering settings, Google Voice allows you to block specific numbers. When a blocked caller tries to reach you, they will hear the traditional, “We’re sorry, you have reached a number that has been disconnected or is no longer in service.” message.
  • Affordable international calls: Like most VoIP services, Google Voice lets you call other countries at extremely affordable rates. For example, calls from the U.S. to Belgium are $0.03 a minute, France is $0.02 a minute, and calling Canada is only a penny.

Good to Know

Before you get too excited, you should know that Google Voice is currently only available in the United States. Also, getting a number requires an invitation. Simply go to the site and click “Get an Invite.” Google Voice does not provide estimates as to how long it will get for your invitation to arrive.

Making calls with your Google Voice number is a little trickier. If you call someone from your home or cell phone, they will see your home or cell phone number. If you want them to only see your Google Voice number, you have a couple of options. You can call your own Google Voice number first and choose the option to “place a call.” Or look for mobile phone apps that can help streamline this process.

Google Voice outgoing callAnother option for outgoing calls is to use the Google Voice web interface. It sounds complicated at first, but has advantages. You start by clicking a “Call” button and entering a number. As you type, Google Voice will start matching numbers to you existing list of contacts, making this a faster option than looking up a contact and dialing a number. Next, click “Connect” and Google Voice will ring your selected phone line. After you pick up, you’ll hear the other person’s line start ringing. If you still have your web site open to Google Voice, you’ll see your call appear in a “Placed” calls folder where you have the option of typing notes about your conversation.

There is so much more to Google Voice, making it worth exploring for home, work, fun or all the above. And, since nearly every setting and option is highly customizable, you can make Google Voice work for you your way.