A free service that lets you make phone calls or send messages on the iPhone, Google Voice has long been a popular alternative to the default dialer. While Apple doesn’t allow you to replace any default app, placing the Google Voice app on your iPhone dock is the next best thing. If you have not heard of Google Voice, do not worry, as you are not alone. Whether you are a traveler or someone who values privacy, Google Voice can be a handy tool that is well worth knowing.
What Is Google Voice?
Simply defined, Google Voice is a free application that enables you to make and receive calls without using your existing phone number. Once you sign up, you are assigned a US-based phone number that is yours to keep forever.
Set Up Google Voice
1. If you do not already have the Google Voice app, head to the App Store and download it here.
2. Open the application and sign in if you have an existing Google account. Alternatively, create a new Google account if you do not.
3. Select “Search” to find a phone number to use. You can help choose a number by city so you can get the right area code if available. Otherwise, you are likely to get something as near to you as possible.
4. Next, you will be asked if you wish to “Link this device to Google Voice.” Go ahead and select “Next.”
5. In this step, enter your existing mobile number. It is important that you do that so Google Voice calls can be forwarded to your iPhone.
6. A verification code will be sent to your device. Enter it and you are ready to use the Google Voice app.
The simplified look and feel of the Google Voice app makes it easy to place calls. Upon opening the app, you are presented with four icons at the bottom of the screen. The one to the far left is a phone icon which unsurprisingly is where you make a call. Select that icon and you are presented with a few things on the screen.
First, you will see a recent call log, not dissimilar from what the default dialer app shows on the iPhone. Outgoing, incoming and missed calls are all identified by red and green icons. Both time and date are presented to help you know when a call was placed or received.
Secondly, you will see a green button toward the bottom right that looks like a dial pad. Tap that icon, enter any phone number you wish to contact and then hit the green button toward the bottom middle. Making calls with Google Voice is that simple. You will also see a list of suggested contacts including favorites and those you have recently contacted.
Like the dial button, the messages icon is also easily discovered on the bottom row of icons presented when first opening the app. Second from right, the messages button takes you into your previous message history. You are immediately shown history including date, time and messages. You can also search the app for message history at the top of the screen where it says “Search Google Voice.”
To send a new message, tap on the green button at the bottom right that looks like a pencil. You can now select a contact to send a message to or type in any number at the top. After selecting a contact, the bottom of the screen highlights “Type a message.” Once a message is written, a little arrow appears which acts as a “send” button.
Contacts and Voicemail
The remaining two icons in the Google Voice app dock are contacts and voicemail. Both are very self-explanatory. The contact list is mostly made up of previous Google accounts if you have a Gmail account or previous contacts you have called or messaged before. The voicemail is, well, voicemail. There are associated dates and times when voicemails arrived as well as text transcripts, if available.
One of the major advantages of using Google Voice on iOS is the ability to customize options. Want to forward your Google Voice calls to another number? Easy. Just head to “Settings -> Forward messages” to linked numbers and select a number. Think it will be helpful to have all of your messages forwarded to your email so you do not miss anything? That is easy too. Head to “Settings -> Forward messages to email” and select the appropriate email.
The list of customizable options goes on and on. Some additional favorites include being able to hide your caller ID on outgoing calls. Another favorite is the ability to have your calls prescreened by making callers enter their name before ringing your Google Voice number. A “Do not disturb” option allows you to disable message forwarding and sends calls right to voicemail. Record your own voicemail separate from the default Apple dialer voicemail. There are some powerful options enabled by Google Voice that Apple omits from its default client.
While it will not replace the built-in dialer any time soon thanks to Apple’s refusal to allow setting third-party default apps, Google Voice is a powerful secondary option. That it recently added deeper integration with Siri for making calls and sending messages by saying “Hey Siri, call mom with Google Voice” is yet another example of how much Google Voice can supercharge your iPhone experience. Best of all, it is 100 percent free. Are you a Google Voice user?