How To Use Google Voice As Your Primary Phone Number
Google Voice was launched back in 2009. When the service was first established, it was available on an invite basis, but has later been opened for anyone to sign up. Google Voice gives you a single phone number that can be used on all of your devices, meaning that you no longer need separate numbers for your home, office and mobile phone. The service also lets you port in an existing phone number from your mobile carrier.
Unlike with other VoIP services, Google Voice comes with no monthly fees. It lets you make unlimited calls and texts to phone numbers in the US and Canada, in addition to offering very affordable rates for calls to international destinations. This is why many people consider it a good alternative to other providers. But an important question to ask is: can you actually rely on this service to be your main phone? While it might look like it has a lot to offer, it isn't without its downsides. There are a few things you may want to think about before you decide to rely on Google's service for all of your calling needs.
Pros and Cons of Using Google Voice as Your Primary Phone Number
You Get One Number for Any Phone You Use
One of the biggest advantages offered by Google Voice is that you get one phone number that can then be set up to work with all of your current phones. When you get a call on your Google Voice number, it can be set to ring any device that you've linked to your account. You can also make outgoing calls from all of these devices and the receiver's caller ID will show your Google Voice number. It's even possible to make outgoing calls straight from your computer. If you want a service that lets you ensure you'll be reachable no matter where you are, Google Voice is a strong contender.
Full Integration With Your Digital Life
If you're already familiar with the interface of Google services, you'll have no trouble figuring out how Google Voice works. You can use all of its functions, such as reading and sending SMS messages, making video calls, as well as accessing your voicemails, from an interface that looks very similar to a standard Gmail inbox. The service can be accessed through any standard web browser, as well as apps that are available for Android and iOS devices. This means you can access its features no matter where you are or which device you're using at the moment.
Another interesting feature that comes standard with the service is voicemail transcription. Google Voice lets you read written transcripts of voicemails that were left for you and even provides a color indicator that shows how accurate it believes the transcription is. Just like any other voicemail-to-email service, it doesn't always get all the words right, but it's relatively accurate and you still have the opportunity to listen to the audio of the messages left for you.
You Can Port In Your Existing Mobile Number
If you have a mobile number and don't want to deal with the hassle of giving out a new number to your contacts or printing new business cards, Google Voice lets you keep your existing number and use it with their service. The number you've ported in will then replace the dedicated Google Voice number you've previously been assigned. However, the process to port in your number isn't instant and there might be a one or two day waiting period during which you won't be able to receive calls or text messages.
Flexible Calling Features
Google Voice offers a variety of flexible calling features that make communicating with those important to you a lot easier. Since your service can be linked to more than one device, Google Voice lets you seamlessly switch devices once you've answered a call. This feature can be very practical in many scenarios. For example, if you've answered a call on your office phone and are about to head out, you can send it over to your mobile phone without interruption. If your mobile phone's battery is about to die and you can't find your charger, you can instantly transfer the call to your home phone or your computer.
There are many call management features that come with the service as well. Whenever you receive a call on your Google Voice phone number, the service will attempt to find a matching contact in your address book. For callers that aren't a match, you can set it to ask them to record their name for you, which works as a form of audio caller ID.
When using the web-based application, you can easily record your calls if you need to. The Google Voice web app lets you start and stop the recording at any point during the call. This can be useful if you use the service for business and would like to keep a record of your conversations for verification purposes.
As Google is a company that is widely known for innovation, users of its services can expect new features to be added on a regular basis. This ensures that the service stays on top of the latest developments in the communications world, thus being among the most convenient and powerful around, all while being free to use with no monthly fees.
No Emergency Calling
For those who are considering using Google Voice as their primary home or small business phone service, the inability to make direct calls to 911 is one of its biggest weaknesses. The Google Voice terms of service states that it's an "enhanced call management application" and therefore lacks the ability to place or receive calls to emergency services.
This means that you'll need an alternative way to make emergency calls, such as having a cell phone that uses a standard mobile carrier's service.
Limited Customer Support
Most traditional phone service and VoIP providers give you a variety of ways to get in touch with their customer support department should you have an issue with their service. Unfortunately, this is not the case with Google Voice, as Google doesn't provide direct customer support for this product. Instead, you have access to an online help service that gives you answers to the most frequently asked questions. If you can't find an answer there, you can make a post on the Google Voice Help Forum. This allows you to get help from other users who may have experienced similar issues, as well as receive responses from Google staff.
However, you may have to wait a day or more before one of Google's support team members gets in touch with you. While the service has been quite reliable overall, just reading the forums will show that many users have had trouble with it. Some have complained of problems like getting assigned the same phone number as another Google Voice user. Without direct support from the company providing the service, it's difficult to get a quick resolution to problems, even if they completely interrupt your ability to use the service.
Multimedia Messaging Can Be Complicated to Use
While Google voice lets you send and receive text messages right on your desktop, it does lag behind a bit when it comes to multimedia messages, such as those containing a picture or video. You can send them, but instead of being embedded into the message, the image gets included as a link for the recipient to click on. This is due to the fact that Google Voice doesn't use the standard MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) that comes with most mobile phone services. If you want to send picture, video or audio messages directly to a contact, both of you will need to have installed the Google Hangouts app.
Some Reliability Issues and Limitations on Number Portability
Reliability is a very important point to consider when you're choosing a VoIP service that will replace your current landline or mobile phone service. Google Voice is run by one of the most reputable players in the tech industry, so you can expect the service to work relatively well without any major outages or technical issues. However, even big companies like Google have occasionally had problems with their communications services.
Back in 2014, Google experienced outages that made many of its famous services, including Gmail, go down unexpectedly. If you rely on Google voice for all of your communications needs, any outage will mean that you won't be able to use your phone service at all.
There are also some limitations when it comes to porting in your number and using it with Google's service. Number portability isn't free, as Google charges you a one-time fee of $20 to bring in your number from another company. The biggest limitation is that you can't port in landline or VoIP numbers at the moment, as Google only supports number portability from mobile carriers. The only way around this limitation is to first port in the number to a mobile carrier, then transfer it over to Google Voice. This makes the entire procedure longer and more complicated for those who have a traditional landline or VoIP number they would like to use with the service.
Is Google Voice Actually Worth It?
Google Voice offers many interesting features for home and small business users looking for a convenient VoIP service to replace their traditional phone line. It can be used on a variety of devices, including PCs, tablets and mobile phones. You get one phone number that can ring all of your devices when called, ensuring that you're always reachable, even when you're out of your home or office. Other features, such as the ability to read voicemail messages instead of listening to them, as well as sending and receiving SMS from a web browser, can be very appealing to some users too.
Finally, there is also the fact that the service is free to use, allowing you to place unlimited calls to North America without paying a monthly fee. This makes it an attractive choice if you want a high-quality VoIP service with many interesting features at the lowest possible cost.
But you also need to keep in mind its limitations. When you use Google Voice, you won't be able to make emergency calls directly from the service. There is also a complete lack of direct customer support, meaning that there's no customer service number to call if you have questions about the service or run into problems while using it. Should you experience a service outage or run into any other type of problem that affects your ability to use the service, your only option is to make a post on the forum and wait a day or two for Google's staff to respond.
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