Google Voice can be a great choice if you want to save on phone calls while turning any device into a functioning smartphone. Here’s how this free service works, and how to get your own Google Voice number in a few simple steps.
How does Google Voice work?
Google Voice is a service that uses traditional phone and VoIP technology to route its calls.
A Google Voice number works like a regular phone number. This phone number allows you to call and text people for free within the U.S. and Canada. When you get an incoming call, you can either have it forwarded to a phone number of your choice (like your smartphone), via the Google Voice app or on your computer. You can also port your phone number over to Google Voice.
Other features include call screening, blocking and personalized voicemail greetings. You may be able to get transcripts of voicemail messages which can be convenient for when you’re on the go. All of these features are free.
Aside from the potential savings on phone plans, the main goal of Google Voice is to be able to have one phone number even if you have to switch carriers. And if your physical phone number changes, you can still keep your Google Voice number and set it up so it forwards to your new number. It also can help you maintain a certain level of privacy—instead of providing your real phone number, you can give out your Google Voice number instead.
Google Voice: The pros and cons
Google Voice offers many great features. Before deciding to get a Google Voice number, first consider the pros and cons.
Google Voice pros
One of the main advantages is that Google Voice offers a convenient way to make and receive calls for free on a personal account within the U.S. and Canada—you can call from your computer, phone or mobile device as long as you have an internet or data connection. You may be able to save money on phone services, especially if you’d rather not have a landline or pay for an additional phone number.
You can also link up to six numbers to your Google Voice account, so you can be reached wherever you are.
Call screening includes a feature that requires an unknown caller to record their name to help screen unwanted or spam calls.
Google Voice can be a great choice for privacy reasons, said Andréa Harvey, research and communications specialist for ASecureLife.com.
“Using your Google Voice number is safer, especially if you need to make a number publicly available and talk to new and different people every day,” she said. This reduces risks when sharing your number for Craigslist transactions or online dating, Harvey said, “anytime when you might want an extra layer of protection.”
Another level of protection to consider: Using BeenVerified’s reverse phone lookup tool to check who is making incoming calls.
Google Voice cons
While Google Voice service is free, you can still incur carrier costs or data charges if you have the number forwarded to your cell phone. Some phone carriers don’t allow WiFi enabled calls or may charge additional fees, so check with your carrier for more details.
Google Voice doesn’t allow you to make 911 calls (unless you are a G Suite work or school account). If you have another phone line this is not an issue, but if you port your number to Google Voice, you’ll need to figure out a way to place emergency calls. (For example, all smartphone phone apps allow free 911 calls).
If you’re looking for robust customer service, you’re out of luck. Although Google does have an online help page where you can find answers to frequently asked questions, you won’t be able to call customer service. There is a Google Voice help forum, but it might not get you a timely response .
How to get Google Voice
Here’s how to get a Google Voice number:
- Sign up for a Google account.
- Head to Google Voice’s website and sign in.
- Once you’ve agreed to their terms and conditions, pick a three digit area code and choose a Google Voice number.
- Link an existing phone number.
- Download the app or forward an existing phone number to start using Google Voice.
How to port over your current phone number
Before attempting to port your current phone number to Google Voice, understand that not all mobile numbers will work. You also could be charged a $20 fee for doing so (unless you’re a former customer of Google Fi, Google’s wireless phone service — then it’s free fonce you cancel). Once your number is ported over, then your phone carrier service will be canceled.
Here’s how to port over your current phone number:
- Sign into Google Voice.
- Head to “Legacy Google Voice” and go to the settings section.
- Click Change/Port next to your phone number.
- Follow prompts and change your settings on where you receive calls.
- Number porting can take up to 96 hours for activation.
Is Google Voice right for you?
Google Voice can be a great budget-friendly option to make and receive calls. It’s also perfect for privacy reasons, as you don’t need to give out your personal phone number—use your Google Voice number instead. Even though Google Voice is free, your phone carrier may charge for minutes and data used. And you can’t use Google Voice for emergency calls.