Google Voice: Nifty Phone Management Services

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Among Google’s many features, Google Voice is waiting to make your phone services a lot simpler. This phone management tool can help you set up calling features, save money on your phone plan, and quite a few other things – if you know how to use it.

If you’re wondering how to get Google Voice, look no further than your Google Account, the one that manages your Gmail and other activities (you can easily make a new or separate account for the service if you want). Then head over to the Google Voice page to learn more and sign up. Once you are registered, you can download the mobile app and desktop apps on your devices and get started using its features.

Google Voice Basics

Let’s get some important definitions out of the way first. Google Voice is not a phone service like the kind you could get through Comcast or Verizon – it’s a bit of communication software, like an app you would download to text or video chat with friends. To use it, you need a U.S. phone with an associated number. However, once you provide Voice with the relevant information, it can give you a whole lot in return

At its core, Google Voice is a phone management service. It allows you to create a single contact number for all your devices, it lets you manage your voicemail in a visual format, and it helps you route and forward calls based on your landlines, mobile services, VoIP services, and more. If this sounds like it was designed for a small business or home office, that’s true – but Voice also offers some other handy features that any homeowner would appreciate.

For example, with Voice you can set up rules and filters to block specific call you don’t want, just like setting up filtering for emails. You can also use the mobile apps to call or text people through Voice without incurring any charges. There are a few limits here (and remember, you’ll still have to pay for phone service) but within the U.S. and Canada you can make unlimited domestic calls to both mobile phones and landlines – ditto for any texts you might want to send. This is especially handy if you have a phone plan that limits the number of texts or minutes you have, and if your friends and relatives are also using Google Voice. Set it up the right way, and you end up saving a lot of money on your phone plan.

Beyond the Basics

Now that we’ve mentioned the core of Google Voice, let’s look at a few of the other features you may be interested in.

A New Number: Because of Google’s routing services, you can choose a new number to manage all your calls. This is particularly useful if you want to set up a home business and need to differentiate both your company and the phones you use for it.

Transcription: There are some transcription services available that will transcribe (and email) voicemail to you, but they sometimes cost extra. Not so with Google Voice, which offers transcriptions for free.

Personal Greetings and Checks: Sure, most companies offer personal greetings, but Google also has that handy feature that asks callers to identify themselves before passing them along to you, the end user. This makes it extra easy to screen calls and prepare – or ignore.

Video Chatting: Google Voice does not support video chatting…exactly. But there is a plugin you can download for Google Hangouts that allows you to video chat. Because all Google services are so connected, this is essentially the same as using video chat in Google Voice, and your number and phone management options will stay apply, it just takes a couple extra steps. However, once you get there Google allows things like free group video chats, something that not even Skype has.

The Future of Google Voice

The features we’ve just discussed are here to stay, but Google Voice is undergoing some changes in the way it works. This is due to the aforementioned Hangouts, which is Google’s social chatting/group conversation app. In 2014 it became apparent that Voice and Hangouts were a little too much alike, and Google has been taking steps to merge the two.

This doesn’t mean that Voice services are going away. On the contrary, it means that Voice will be getting all the group chat, video options and other features of Hangouts…and you only have to sign up for one service. There’s no word on when the two will become fully one, but the process has already begun.

Photo Credit: Charlie Wollborg

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