The Wonders of Google Voice on Your Android Phone

By Dan Gookin

Perhaps the best option for working with voicemail on your Android phone is something called Google Voice. It’s more than just a voicemail system: You can use Google Voice to make phone calls in the United States, place cheap international calls, and perform other amazing feats. Here, you discover the virtues of using Google Voice as the voicemail system on your Android phone.

  • Even when you choose to use Google Voice, you should still set up and configure the boring carrier voicemail.

  • With Google Voice configured as your phone’s voicemail service, your voicemail messages arrive in the form of a Gmail message. The message’s text is a transcription of the voicemail message.

  • Better than reading a Gmail message is receiving a Google Voice message by using the Google Voice app.

  • You may need to reset Google Voice after using call forwarding. That’s because Google Voice relies upon forwarding unanswered or dismissed calls.

Configuring Google Voice

To configure your Android phone for use with Google Voice, you must first create a Google Voice account. Start your adventure by visiting the Google Voice home page. You should use a computer to complete these steps.

Follow the directions on the screen. Log in to your Google account, if necessary, and agree to the terms of service.

You’re prompted to input information about the phone, and Google calls your cell phone to confirm the number and verify the service.

Eventually you’re given directions on how to forward missed calls to the Google Voice service. When the Google Voice access number appears on the computer screen, write it down for future reference:

You should also consider creating a contact for your Google Voice access number. While you’re at it, consider bookmarking the Google Voice website on your computer.

Although this step configures a Google Voice account, you still need to program your phone to use Google Voice as its voicemail service. That’s best accomplished by installing the Google Voice app.

Using the Google Voice app

Google Voice transcribes your voicemail messages, turning the audio from the voicemail into a text message you can read. The messages all show up eventually in your Gmail inbox, just as though someone sent you an email rather than left you voicemail. It’s a good way to deal with your messages, but not the best way.

The best way to handle Google Voice is to use the Google Voice app, available from the Google Play Store.

After the Google Voice app is installed, you have to work through the setup, which isn’t difficult: The goal is to switch over the phone’s voicemail number from the carrier’s voicemail system to Google Voice. Eventually, you see the app’s main interface, which looks and works similarly to an email program. You can review your messages or tap a message to read or play it.

Voicemail with the Google Voice app.

Voicemail with the Google Voice app.

When new Google Voice messages come in, you see the Google Voice notification icon. To read or listen to the message, pull down the notifications and choose the item labeled Voicemail from whomever.

  • With Google Voice installed, you see two notices for every voicemail message: one from Google Voice and another for the Gmail message.

  • The Google Voice app works only after you acquire a Google Voice account and add your Android phone’s number to that account.

  • The text Transcript Not Available appears whenever Google Voice is unable to create a text message from your voicemail or whenever the Google Voice service is temporarily unavailable.