Google Voice is an elder statesman when it comes to internet technology. The company describes it as “a free phone number to take control of your communication.” The service launched way back in 2009 as a telephone service that gives users their own number as well as the ability to forward calls, accept voicemails, and receive text messages. Google Voice may be flying a little under the radar these days, but it’s still up and running and it can be incredibly useful.
Google recently updated Voice to add photo sharing and group conversations to messages. It also received a new layout and conversations now stay together in a continuous thread. Here are five ways to harness the power of Google Voice to make your life easier:
1) Keep your main number anonymous
There are many situations where you might not want to hand out your regular phone number. You could be buying an item on Craigslist or meeting a potential date. Hand out your Google Voice number and your personal digits will stay private. This can also work well for small business owners who would like to keep a business number that’s separate from a home number.
Even better, Google Voice lets you easily block numbers. If a telemarketer gets a hold of your Google Voice number, you can choose to “block caller” and avoid any further unwanted contact. The caller will then get a message saying the number is not in service.
Tip within a tip: This isn’t the only tool that can help simplify your life. Click here for 5 amazing things you can do with Google Assistant.
2) Forward calls to multiple phones
One of Google Voice’s most powerful features is its handy call-forwarding skills. You can link other phone numbers to your Google Voice number. For example, you might want to link your cellphone and your work phone. When someone calls your Voice number, it will ring both of those phones (or only one if you prefer). You can do the same with text messages, or instead simply choose to have them forwarded to your email.
Google Voice also has a do-not-disturb feature you can access in the settings. This automatically turns off message forwarding and sends all calls straight to your voicemail.
One of the ideas at the heart of Google Voice is that you can keep your Voice number no matter which phones you’re using. It can always follow you, even if you change numbers for your cellphone or work phone.
3) Make international calls
Google Voice isn’t just limited to U.S. calls. You can add credit to your line and make calls to far-flung regions of the globe for reasonable rates. You can even call Antarctica for $2 per minute. That might sound like it’s on the expensive side for an international call, but it’s still less than most carriers charge. Typical Google Voice rates include a 1-cent-per-minute charge to most U.K. numbers and 1-cent-per-minute for calls to China. You also get free calls to Canada as long as you’re dialing from the U.S. or Canada.
Tip within a tip: Did you know there’s a way to make phone calls with your tablet? Click here for a helpful guide on how it’s done.
4) Get convenient voicemail transcriptions
Voicemail can be a hassle. A typical setup requires you to call into your voicemail, enter a password, and navigate a menu to listen to and manage your messages. Google Voice transcribes incoming voicemails so a quick glance tells you what you need to know. The transcription isn’t always perfect, but you can also listen to the audio straight from your browser or the Google Voice app, just like with a regular voicemail. You then have the option to archive a voicemail, mark it as spam, block the number, or even download the voicemail.
Here’s another bonus. Google announced in January it is introducing voicemail transcription for Spanish and it expects to improve the accuracy over time.
5) Screen your calls
In settings, under “Calls,” you will find an option to screen calls. Google describes this as being able to “Hear a caller’s name when you pick up.” If you have this toggled on, then Google Voice will prompt unknown callers for their names. When you pick up, you won’t be directly connected to the caller, but will instead hear the name and have the option to answer the call (or not). If it’s someone you don’t want to talk with right now, you can send that person onward to your voicemail. You can turn this feature off at any time.