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Why would I want to use Google Voice with my Android phone?

  1. Google Voice gives you a permanent number that forwards to the phone or phones of your choice.  If you change carriers or move, you don’t have to worry about “porting” your old phone number- you can just change your forwarding phone settings in Google Voice.  Additionally, your Google Voice number can ring your home, work, and cell phones at the same time, and you can answer whichever one you want.  You can block specific numbers, send others to specific phones, and determine what time of day you want each phone to ring.
  2. Save money on international calls.  International calls are far less expensive than the exorbitant per-minute fees charged by cellular carriers.  For example, I can use Google Voice to call my sister in Germany for about 2 cents per minute.  AT&T would charge well over a dollar per minute for the same call.

Why would I want to use Google Voice with my iPhone?

  1. Google Voice gives you a permanent number that forwards to the phone or phones of your choice.  If you change carriers or move, you don’t have to worry about “porting” your old phone number- you can just change your forwarding phone settings in Google Voice.  Additionally, your Google Voice number can ring your home, work, and cell phones at the same time, and you can answer whichever one you want.  You can block specific numbers, send others to specific phones, and determine what time of day you want each phone to ring.
  2. Save money/minutes on calls.  US calls are free.  International calls are far less expensive than the exorbitant per-minute fees charged by cellular carriers.  For example, I can use Google Voice to call my sister in Germany for about 2 cents per minute.  AT&T would charge well over a dollar per minute for the same call.

I’m a big fan of Google Voice.  During the past year, I’ve written a number of posts about it, including tutorials for setting it up and getting the most out of its features.  During that time, the service has been in a limited beta, by invitation only.  Yesterday, Google Voice opened up to the public.  Anyone can now use it.  To celebrate, I’ve decided to make a list of my favorite ways to use the service.  Where applicable, I’ve provided links to detailed, step-by-step tutorials for setting up the features I describe.

1. Free home phone service:

Google Voice is not a self-contained phone service- it’s just a free and permanent phone number that forwards wherever you want.  There are two VoIP services I know of, SipGate and Gizmo5, that provide free incoming calls.  If you initiate a call through Google Voice’s web interface, by telling it what number you want to call and which of your phones you want connected, Google Voice will place a call to your phone and connect you with the other number after you pick up.  When you dial by this method SipGate and Gizmo5 treat it as an incoming call, which is free.

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In my review of the HTC Tilt2 from AT&T, I mentioned how much I love the Opera Mobile browser.  There’s just one problem, however: when I try to browse on a wifi network, Opera wouldn’t work, instead giving me an error message indicating that it couldn’t find a proxy server.

The good folks over at XDA-Developers Forum have a solution:

Apparently, Opera is configured out of the box to use a specific proxy server, which is only available when the phone is operating on AT&T’s data network.  If you try to connect through wifi, your phone can’t access the server, so Opera won’t work.

Here’s how you fix it:

  1. Open your Opera Mobile browser.
  2. Type “about:config” without quotes into the address bar.
  3. Scroll down until you see “Proxy.”  Click on it.
  4. When the Proxy section expands, uncheck every box and tap “Save.”

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In my recent preliminary review of the HTC Tilt 2, I mentioned that getting the device to work with VoIP and Google Voice calls would be a high priority for me.  Since then, I’ve found a workable solution.  This article will show you with step by step instructions how to set it up.

Why would I want to use Google Voice with my cell phone?

  1. Google Voice gives you a permanent number that forwards to the phone or phones of your choice.  If you change carriers or move, you don’t have to worry about “porting” your old phone number- you can just change your forwarding phone settings in Google Voice.  Additionally, your Google Voice number can ring your home, work, and cell phones at the same time, and you can answer whichever one you want.  You can block specific numbers, send others to specific phones, and determine what time of day you want each phone to ring.

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Here are some free tools that helped me save money and work smarter during college.

Share class notes with Google Docs

Google Docs is like having Microsoft Word in your email account.  Once you sign up, you have access to a word processor and spreadsheet application that can import and export files to and from Microsoft and Open Document formats.  It doesn’t have all the features of Microsoft Office, but it’s good enough for most of the writing you’ll have to do during college.  Best of all, you can give your friends access and editing privileges for your documents, enabling easy sharing of class notes and study guides, and efficient collaboration on projects.

A few years ago, getting notes for a class I missed meant I had to set up a time to meet, and either copy by hand or find a copy machine.  Now, if I’m getting notes from a colleague who uses Google Docs, sharing notes with me takes 30 seconds and a couple of mouse clicks.

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A reader emailed me with a question about my tutorial for using the Nokia N810 as a wifi phone with Google Voice and Gizmo.

I am not very techie, but I can usually read and follow directions.
Somehow, I managed to mess this up. Everything was fine until I got to
the Dial Central forwarding phone section at the very end. Will you
please write out explicitly what the “forwarding phone” number is
supposed to be? Google Voice? or The SIP number from Gizmo or something
else entirely?

Thanks So Much For A Great Post,

Q

Dear Q,

I reread my tutorial, and I can see how you might have become confused.  I’ll try to clarify:

Forwarding Phone: This refers to any phone number that you set your Google Voice number to forward to.  This is the same as a Callback Number in DialCentral.  You can add forwarding phones by signing into your Google Voice account at http://google.com/voice, clicking “Settings” then “Phones.”

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I previously wrote about using Gizmo Voice to integrate your Gizmo and Google Voice accounts for free incoming and outgoing calls.  Unfortunately, Gizmo voice is no longer completely free.  Incoming calls are still free, as before.  Outgoing domestic calls are free during the first three minutes, after which you will be charged $0.02 per minute.

You can still make free calls by using the Google Voice web interface or DialCentral on your N810.  In Google Voice, click “Call” in the upper left.  Enter the phone number you want to call.  Under “Phone to Ring,” select which of your forwarding phones you want to use for the call.  Google Voice will ring that phone.  When you answer, it will ring the number you are calling.  Gizmo will consider this an incoming call, so you will not be charged.

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At the time of this writing, Google seems to be using IP filtering to prevent people with non-US IP addresses from setting up accounts.  Fortunately, “mgoebel” of the Internet Tablet Talk forum has figured out a beautifully simple way around this.

Here’s how it works:

When you receive your Google Voice invitation, send it to a someone you trust in the United States, and ask them to set up the account for you.  You’ll have to trust them with your password, but you can change that later.  Have them set up the account and send you the login credentials.

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In my two previous posts, I showed you how to use Google Voice and the Gizmo Project to set up your Nokia N810 internet tablet as a free wifi phone, and how to unlock your old Sunrocket analog telephone adapter (ATA) (Linksys SPA2102-R) for use with another VoIP service.

In this post, I’ll show you how to set up your Sunrocket ATA and landline phone for free domestic phone service (US only) using Google Voice and the Gizmo Project.  If you don’t already have an ATA, I’ve found the Linksys SPA2102 VoIP Phone Adapter with Router to be an excellent and reliable piece of equipment which can be configured for use with most SIP-based VoIP services.

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