What Is Google Voice?

By James T. Cains

Ever wanted to have just one phone number, instead of two or three? Well, Google Voice lets you do just that…sort of. Nowadays, most people have a home landline phone, a mobile phone, and a work phone — all different numbers in different locations. So, if you’re at work, you can’t get your calls at home, and vice versa; if you’re out and about with your mobile phone, you can’t get your calls at either home or work. Google Voice makes it so where you are makes no difference.

How does Google Voice work?

First, you get yourself a new Google Voice phone number. “What?” you ask. “Another number?” If you don’t want to add to your list of phone numbers, then you can port one of your existing numbers, such as your mobile number, to Google Voice. Regardless of how you do it, the Google Voice number becomes the number you give out to everyone. Then, you attach your other numbers to your Google Voice account.

Google Voice becomes kind of your personal switchboard operator. When someone dials your Google Voice number, Google Voice routes the call to all of your phones. Yes, all of your phones ring, so whether you’re at work, home, or out and about, you get the call. And you and your friends, family, and colleagues have to remember only one phone number for you.

Google Voice is not a telephone service, like AT&T or Verizon. It won’t replace your other phone services. Basically, Google Voice forwards your calls to all of your other phones. But Google Voice, which is free, comes with a lot of the same features that other telephone services charge you for, such as voicemail and voicemail transcriptions, call forwarding and recording, texting (for mobile numbers only), international calling, conference calling, and so on. And since you’re using Google Voice’s features, and not those of your other telephone services, those features are free.

Get started with Google Voice

To begin using Google Voice, you need to set up an account at www.google.com/voice. If you already have a regular Google account for Gmail, Google Drive, YouTube, and so on, you can log in with that. If you don’t have a regular Google account, follow these steps to set one up:

  1. Click Create an Account.

  2. Fill in your information and click Next Step.

  3. Decide whether to create a Google+ profile. If you don’t want to, click No Thanks.

  4. On the Welcome screen, click Back to Google Voice, which takes you to your Google Voice account.

You can now set up your Google Voice account by following these steps:

  1. In the Terms dialogue box, check the box to accept Google Voice’s Terms and Privacy Policy and click Proceed.

  2. Click the I Want a New Number button to set up a new number.

  3. Before you pick a new Google Voice number, you have to set up an existing phone number that the calls to your Google Voice number will be forwarded to. Type in the ten-digit number you chose. You’ll need to verify that phone number, so choose the one that you have next to you.

  4. Choose Home, Work, or Mobile from the Phone Type drop-down menu depending on which number you chose in Step 3.

  5. Click Continue.

  6. 6. Verify the existing phone number you just entered by clicking the Call Me Now button.

  7. When the phone you just called rings, answer and type in the code provided on the keypad. Your account will be activated.

  8. Type in the Google Voice number you want. You can choose any area code and phone number, as long as it’s available.

  9. Click Search Numbers. Keep in mind that it may take some time to find a number that’s available. If you enter partial numbers, you may get a list of options.

  10. When you find the number you want, click the radio button and click Continue.

  11. Choose the PIN that you will use to get your voicemail and access Google Voice from any phone.

And that’s it! Now you can give out your Google Voice number to your family, friends, and colleagues. You can also add other your other phones to the account.

You can specify which of your phones ring at which times. For example, if you’re at work only from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., there’s no point to having it ring at night. Same with your home number, if you’re not home during the day. And in an emergency situation — for example, if a family member is having surgery and you’re waiting for news — you can set all of your phones to ring so you get the call no matter where you are.