How To Make the Most Out of Google Voice on Android ;).
Google Voice is a great service is you take the time to get to know it. Even the concept can be a little hard to grasp. Nowhere is Google Voice more completely integrated than in Android. There are apps, extensions, and web interfaces to become familiar with. Each piece of the puzzle gets you one step closer to a more coordinated Google Voice experience.
Google Voice is great for any phone, but Android users in particular are in for a treat. Read on as we bring together everything you need to know to get up and running with Google Voice.
This one is pretty straight forward. If you live in the US, head on over to google.com/voice to get an account. Google opened the service up a few months ago, so any US number is eligible. Sign in with your Google account and Voice will have you choose an area code for your new number. Google has many area codes available, so you should be able to find one in your area. You can try to search for numbers or words that spell out the rest of the number, or just have good offer some options in a list. Just be sure you pick a good number for yourself. It costs $10 if you want to change it later.
After that is done, just add your carrier mobile number in the space provided. Google Voice will then have to call that number, to make sure you are actually the person with that phone number. If you wish, you can hold off on this step until later, but for your account to be activated, you have to verify your phone. Click the button to place the call, and input the numeric code when asked to. Then you’re done.
Set up voicemail
You’re going to need to record a new voicemail message for people to hear when they call you. You can do this from the phone by calling you Voice number, or through the web interface. To avoid slogging through touchtone limbo, we recommend you do this online. In your settings, go to Voicemail and Text. Click the Record New button near the top, and select your mobile phone in the resulting popup. This will call you and present the voice menu to record a new greeting. After you get the recording right, it will be attached to your account immediately.
If you have organized your Google Contacts into Groups, they are available in Google Voice in the Groups tab. You can record a greeting specifically for each group. Something more businesslike for coworkers, or more personal for family? Just click Edit under the desired group, and pick a greeting in the dropdown. Google Voice saves your various greetings, but you can record a new one on the spot if you like.
The other element of Google Voice voicemail is that you can use it to bypass your carrier’s voicemail system. With your Android phone, go to the main system settings, then tap Call Settings. Use the Voicemail Service dropdown to select Google Voice. This will set you call forwarding options to forward unanswered calls to your Google voicemail. Make sure you set up SMS or email notifications of voicemails in the web interface settings, or use inbox syncing in the Android app settings (Android only, more on this later). On other phones. you have to manually set up call forwarding. Google voice can provide keypad commands for most carriers.
Routing and screening calls
You can add multiple phones to Google Voice. By default, all of them will ring when you get a call on your Voice line. You can also enable Google Chat in Gmail to get your Voice calls. But maybe you don’t want all your devices ringing all day when you have you mobile with you elsewhere. You can easily schedule times for each phone to ring, or not. In the Phones tab of your Google Voice web interface (this is also where you can turn on Google Chat calls), click the Edit button for the phone you want to change. Then click Show Advanced Settings.
You can use the generic settings for ringing on week days vs. weekends, or set up your own custom schedule. At the bottom, we suggest making sure “Ring my other phones before going to voicemail” is checked. This is just a failsafe in case you accidentally have you schedule wrong, or are not where you usually are one day. This process is important when you’re just getting started with Google Voice. Neither you, nor the people around you will particularly want three different devices ringing all the time.
Under the calls tab, you might want to turn on Call Screening. This is one of our favorite features of Google Voice. Call Screening will have unknown caller identify themselves to the system before connecting you. Voice will then play their stated name when you pick up, and if you want to answer, just hit 1 on the keypad. You can also send to voicemail, and listen in. If you go this sneaky route, you may break in at any time to take the call. It makes us feel safer giving out our Google Voice number when one is required. Call screening confuses telemarketers to no end.
You can also turn screening on or off for your groups in the same place you set custom greetings. Since these people are in your contacts, it doesn’t have them announce themselves. Rather, you hear the Google robo-voice tell you who they are, and give you answering options before you decide to answer. We usually turn this off.
The Android app and Chrome extension
To really make good use of Google Voice with Android, you’ll need to get used to the official Google Voice app. The main view here is just your call and SMS log. You can send new SMS, listen to your voicemail, and search your log. If you have a reliable data connection, we suggest turning off SMS and email notifications of your voicemail and texts. Instead, turn on Inbox Sync in this app. Go to Menu > More > Settings > Sync and Notifications. Then check Synchronize Inbox. This way, you will get one set of Google Voice specific notifications on the phone. Tapping on them will open the Voice app, so you don’t accidentally respond to Google Voice SMS from your regular SMS app.
New Voice users should also make use of the Voice widgets on Android. If you get a lot of calls or texts, There is an inbox widget that will let you page through this content right from the home screen. The settings widget is also extremely useful. This gives you access to toggles and links for your Voice account. There is an Inbox link, SMS link, call action toggle, and do not disturb toggle. The call action setting is important when you’re first starting out.
If you want to make Google Voice your main number, leave this setting to ‘use for all calls’. This happens automatically when you place a call from the handset. You also have options for Ask for each call, Use Voice only for international calls, and Don’t use Voice for any calls. The Do not disturb button does what you’d expect; You can just tap this to make all your Google Voice calls go direct to voicemail.
There are a number of Google Voice browser extensions out there, but we really think the official Chrome version is the best. New Voice users should give it a try. Users can check their inbox, send SMS, and place calls from the extension. If you place a call, you will have to select which line you want to use, then Voice will call you on that line to connect the call. Having the Voice extension installed will also do some content aware detection of phone numbers in the browser. If there is a phone number on a web page, you can click on it to place a call with Google Voice.
This is far from a complete list of what Google Voice can do. The service is full of features, and Google is adding more all the time. After you’ve gotten used to using Google Voice on Android as your main mobile number, feel free to play with settings to see if you can find novel use for the service that makes your life just that much easier.
Who said? Ryan Whitwam said ;).