Google Voice is a free virtual phone provider that offers a local telephone number as well as free domestic calling and text messaging. Setting up and using a Google Voice number is easy and takes just a few steps, which include setting up your account, navigating basic features, and understanding advanced functions like call screening.
While Google Voice is a useful solution, it is very basic and lacks features like a toll-free number and an automated attendant. Therefore, if you are looking for a more powerful solution, we recommend Grasshopper. The service is easy to use, powerful, and even comes with a free professionally recorded voicemail greeting. Click the link below to get started.
1. Set Up Google Voice
Before you can take advantage of Google Voice’s features, you’ll have to set up the service for yourself. This will include registering for a Google account, choosing a local phone number, and downloading the Google Voice app on your smartphone. The process should only take a few minutes. For more information, check out our guide on how to set up voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) systems.
Register for Your Google Account & Sign In
You need a Google account to use Google Voice. If you don’t have one already, you can go to voice.google.com (or just google.com) and click “sign in.” You will then be taken through the process of setting up your account and various preferences and will also be asked to accept the company’s terms and conditions. This is mostly standard legal copy, but it is worth noting that Google Voice numbers cannot be used to send automated marketing messages.
Once you are done, return to voice.google.com and sign in with your new login credentials. Note that you will now also have access to all of Google’s other free tools. This includes consumer apps like Google Maps as well as productivity solutions like Google Calendar and Google Docs.
Choose Your Local Phone Number & Link to Existing Number
Google Voice gives you the ability to search for phone numbers either by typing in a city or area code. You can choose virtually any area code in the United States to represent your business. This means that you can either choose an area code that represents your location, or one that might better reflect where your client base is located. Unfortunately, you cannot choose a 1-800 number as you can with paid systems like Grasshopper.
Click “select” next to the number of your choice. Because it is only a virtual number, you will need to link this new number to an existing number, which can be a mobile number or landline. Once you have connected the number, you are all set to use Google Voice on a desktop computer.
Set Up Google Voice on Your Smartphone
If you want to use Google Voice on your smartphone, you will have to download the app on your iOS or Android device. Simply go to your device’s app store and download the Google Voice app. It should be the first choice in the search results. Keep in mind that the service cannot be used with a desk phone, unlike a VoIP solution.
When the app is downloaded, log in with your Google credentials. From there, the app will ask you if it can access your device’s contact lists. After that, you should be ready to start making calls, sending texts, and checking voicemail on your mobile device.
2. Use Google Voice’s Basic Features
Once you have set up the virtual phone service, using Google Voice’s basic features is a straightforward process. The three main components of the system include calling, texting, and voicemail. We will be using the mobile app to explore these features, but they are nearly identical in the desktop version.
Steps for using Google Voice include:
Making Calls With Google Voice
Making calls on Google Voice works in a similar fashion to your smartphone’s default phone app. When you open the app, there will be a dial pad icon in the bottom-right corner of your screen. Tap that, enter the phone number you wish to reach, and tap the phone icon at the bottom. You will then call Google Voice, and then you will be forwarded to the other line.
You can also call anyone on your device’s contact list. Simply tap the contacts icon at the bottom of the screen, and you will see a list of everyone in your address book. Tap the person’s name, hit the phone icon, and place the call. Google makes it very easy to make and receive calls with their VoIP service.
Sending Text Messages With Google Voice
To send a text message with Google Voice, tap the messages icon on the bottom of the screen. To compose a new message, tap the pencil icon, and then type in the name of the person you wish to send a message to. You will also be able to see all your messages in this tab.
You can also send images and video via text messages. All you have to do is grant permission to Google Voice to access your camera and photos. While this might not have many applications for a business setting, it could be helpful if you want to send coupons, ads, or any other media to your client base.
Checking Your Voicemail With Google Voice
To check your voicemail inbox, tap the voicemail icon, where you will see a list of all of your messages, as well as transcripts for those messages. You can play back the message, call the person back, or send them a text message. Clicking the More icon next to the message also brings up options to copy the transcript, add the caller to your contacts, delete the message, and more.
Google Voice has a useful voicemail module. The ability to glance at messages on your screen rather than having to stop what you’re doing and listen to audio can help you work more efficiently. Additionally, navigating through the various voicemail options is quick and painless.
3. Use Google Voice’s Advanced Features
Beyond basic calling, texting, and voicemail, Google Voice offers a few advanced features free of charge. This includes call screening as well as call recording. Other than that, the service is rather simple and does not offer as much functionality, like an automated attendant, as paid systems like Grasshopper do.
Some of Google Voice’s more advanced features include:
Like other phone systems, Google Voice tells you the name or number of the person calling before you decide to pick up. You can also create custom outgoing messages for callers based on who they are. Not only that, but you can also decide which phone you want Google Voice to call you on depending on the caller’s information. To do this, go to Settings, then toggle the call screening option.
The FCC reports that nearly half of all calls in 2019 will be spam. Therefore, it is important to screen each and every call to ensure that you don’t fall victim to a scam. Google Voice offers a surprisingly strong call feature capability for a free solution.
Call Recording & Download
Google Voice offers unlimited call recording for free with every account. To see your recorded calls, go to the settings menu and tap the Archive button. There, you will see all of your calls as well as your voicemail activity and text messages. You can also download calls as MP3 files and share them among your colleagues.
Many paid apps do not offer call recording in their entry-level offerings, so it is very impressive to see that Google Voice offers it at no cost. And the fact that you can download these calls makes it great catching up teammates who may have missed important meetings. It’s also ideal for writers who need to save their interviews and other conversations for later reference.
How Does Google Voice Work?
Virtual phone systems allow you to add a business number to an existing phone line, whether that is an existing landline or mobile phone. They keep your work number separate from personal calls by allowing you to use two phone numbers on a single device. Advanced features usually include voicemail, call routing, call blocking, and text messaging.
These virtual numbers are programmed to forward incoming calls to a preset telephone number. In the case of Google Voice, the number is forwarded to the landline or mobile number that you entered when you signed up for the service. They can help you separate business and personal calls without requiring you to buy a new handset. It can also help you seem more professional if you have a dedicated phone number for your organization.
“I love Google Voice. I’m able to record calls if needed, I can send callers to voicemail and even listen in as they leave their message to know if I’m getting spam or not, I can also text using the Google Voice number, and I can record a custom voicemail in literally seconds! Bonus: I can even answer calls over the laptop or computer!
– Lori Ramas, Founder, Relezant
Google Voice’s Limitations
As a free service, it’s hard to complain too much about Google Voice. However, once your company’s needs grow beyond simple calling and texting, Google Voice’s limitations start to become a problem. For example, the solution does not offer a toll-free phone number. It’s also missing software integrations and an automated attendant to greet and route callers.
Bear the following limitations in mind before signing up for Google Voice:
Local Phone Numbers Only
Google Voice allows you to choose local numbers from virtually every area code in the United States. However, it lacks the ability to choose a toll-free number, so you will never have a nationwide business presence. In fact, it may hurt your business image to have a phone number that only represents a specific area. A toll-free 1-800 number is offered by the more effective VoIP services available today.
Single Line Support Only
Google Voice only supports one phone line per account, which makes it infeasible for most business cases. Paid VoIP and virtual phone services often support multiple lines at once so that all of your employees have their own unique extension. Google Voice is really only recommended for solo workers, freelancers, or very small teams that are fine with sharing one line.
Limited Software Integrations
Being able to connect call data with outside business software can be helpful in a business setting. For example, you can enter incoming calls as prospects into a customer relationship management (CRM) system. Google Voice does not have this functionality. If you want to have a more seamless workflow, you’ll have to look at some of the best paid business phone systems on the market, like Nextiva or RingCentral.
No Automated Attendant
An automated attendant greets and routes inbound calls to preconfigured extensions, phones, or voicemail boxes automatically. These modules help callers reach their desired extension, free up your staff from having to answer calls themselves, and give your company a more professional phone presence. While Google Voice can greet callers, it cannot provide them with a menu of options. If this is important, consider a service like Nextiva or Grasshopper.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): How to Use Google Voice on Your iPhone or Android
Can I port an existing number to Google Voice?
Yes. When you sign up with the service, you can go into the settings menu and select “Phones.” Click “Change/Port” and go through the setup process of porting your number. You will be charged a $20 fee for porting most numbers from major mobile service providers.
Can I take my Google Voice number to a new service?
Yes. Simply go to the Google Voice unlock page and click “Unlock my number” to begin the outgoing porting process. Porting your phone to another system costs $3.
Can a virtual phone call landline phones & vice versa?
Yes. If you dial a traditional landline phone with your Google Voice number, the other party can simply pick up the phone and answer the call as if another landline was calling them. Virtual phones can call mobile phones and other internet-based phone systems with the same ease.
Is a local number ideal for a small business?
If you are a smaller operation that only does business within your local region, then you’ll probably find a phone number with your local area code to be fine for your needs. However, if you do business across the country or internationally, then you may want to consider a 1-800 or vanity number. For more information, check out our guide to business phone numbers.
Google Voice is an effective, free virtual phone service for solo workers, freelancers, and small teams. It provides a free phone number, is incredibly easy to use, and it provides unlimited calling and SMS to almost anywhere in the U.S. and Canada.
However, if you need a more powerful system than Google Voice, then we recommend looking at Grasshopper. The services provide a toll-free number, an automated attendant, and the ability to connect data with other business applications. The company even offers a seven-day free trial. Visit the company’s website for more details.