Why would I want to use Google Voice with my Android phone?
- 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.
- 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.
- Keep your cell/home numbers private. You can use Google Voice as your outgoing number when you place calls, which gives the advantage of not exposing numbers you want to keep private. Only your Google Voice number will show up on caller ID when you place calls this way. Google Voice integrates almost seamlessly with Android, so it’s as easy to use as placing a normal phone call once you finish the initial setup.
- Save money on text messages. You can send and receive text messages directly from the Google Voice App. If you don’t have a text plan, or if your text plan only gives you a limited number of monthly messages, this is a good way to maximize your usage while saving on message fees. Alternatively, you can have your text messages forwarded to your email. If you have push email set up, you can receive and reply to texts through email without losing any functionality.
- Voicemail transcription. Using the Google Voice App, you can read transcriptions of voicemail messages minutes after they are left. The transcriptions are not perfect, and are sometimes hilarious, but the service is good enough that you can usually see who called and get the gist of what they wanted.
What does this setup guide cover?
- First, I’ll show you how to set up the Google Voice App so that your outgoing calls display your Google Voice number instead of your cell number, and so you can send and receive text messages through Google Voice. This setup will give you most of the advantages of Google Voice, but will still use your minutes when you make calls.
- Next, I’ll show you how to configure your phone’s integrated SIP settings so you can make and receive VoIP calls that don’t use your minutes. If your phone is rooted, this will work on the cellular network (3G, 4G, or LTE), but if you’re not rooted, this will only work over wifi.
Disclaimer (Read this before you continue!): The following procedure worked on my HTC Evo Shift from Sprint running Android 2.3, and later on Cyanogenmod 7. I have not tried it on any other device and I make no guarantees that it will work on yours. I do not offer any type of tech support. Also, VoIP calls over a cellular data network won’t use your minutes, but WILL count towards your monthly data usage limit. If you choose to proceed, you do so at your own risk and agree that I am not responsible for anything that may go wrong as a result, including, but not limited to: overage charges, voided warranties, hardware damage, or your girlfriend leaving because you spend more time tinkering with your phone than hanging out with her.
Still with me? Good.
Things you’ll need
- An Android phone running Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) or higher. Android 2.3 has VoIP support, and SIP accounts can be configured directly in the Call Settings menu. For older versions of Android, or if you want to use a non-rooted phone to make VoIP calls over the cellular network, you’ll probably need a SIP client such as Sipdroid or Groove IP. You can still use these instructions, but you’ll need to find the appropriate configuration settings in your client of choice.
1. The official Google Voice App, available from the Android Market. This will enable you to send and receive text messages through Google Voice, and place calls from your phone that show your Google Voice number instead of your cell number on the receiver’s caller ID.
- A wifi connection or cellular data connection.
- A free Google Voice account.
- A free SipGate account. Your Google Voice account will forward to this service, which integrates directly with your phone’s built-in VoIP settings.
Part One: Obtain the Google Voice Android app
1. Open the Android Market. Download and install the Google Voice app from Google Inc.
Part Two: Set up Google Voice and configure the Google Voice app
I recommend using your desktop computer rather than your mobile browser for this part.
- If you don’t already have a Google Voice account, go to http://www.google.com/voice and click “Create An Account.” If you don’t already have a Google account, you’ll be asked to set one up at this point. You will have a choice of area codes, and the chance to enter any number sequences you want in your new phone number.
- Once you’ve created your Google Voice account, log in and click “Settings” in the upper right corner.
- Under “Settings,” select “Phones.” This is where you set up Forwarding Phones, which are the phones you want your Google Voice number to forward to. When you place a call through Google Voice, you will choose one of your forwarding phones for the call to be connected to.
- Click “Add phone.” You’ll be asked to enter the type of phone (Home, Cell, or Work), the number, and a phone name that you select. At this point, you should enter your cell number.
- After you click “Save,” a message will pop up telling you that the number needs to be verified. A 2-digit code will be displayed.
- Click “Connect.” Google Voice will call the phone number. When you answer, you will be asked to enter the code displayed on the website using your phone’s numeric keypad. After you have entered the code, you will be told, “Your forwarding phone is set up. Goodbye.”
- Open the Google Voice app on your phone. If you have a Sprint Android phone, you’ll be asked if you want to integrate your mobile number with Google Voice. I recommend you skip this for now by tapping “Skip.” You can always change this later if you want.
- Next, you’ll see “Sign in to Google Voice” and a list of the Google accounts configured on your phone. Tap the email address connected to your Google Voice account and tap “Sign In.” If it’s not listed yet, tap “Use a different account” and enter your GV account credentials.
- Next, you’ll see the “Access Request” page. You’ll be notified that Google Voice wants to access your account and asking if you want to allow the request. Tap “Allow” and you’ll be signed in.
- Next, you’ll see “Set up Google Voice.” This is the part where you decide which calls to make with Google Voice and whether you want GV to be your voicemail provider. Tap “Next.”
- The next screen is “Making calls with Google Voice.” You’ll be presented with a list of options: “Use Google Voice to make all calls, Do not use Google Voice to make any calls, Only use Google Voice for international calls, or Ask every time I make a call.” Choose an option and tap “Next.” You can change this setting later if you change your mind.
- You’ll now be taken to the “Set up voicemail” screen. Tap “Next” to see instructions for configuring your voicemail. If you want Google Voice to handle your voicemail, follow the onscreen instructions to configure it. Otherwise, tap “Skip.”
- You may end up on the “Call Settings” page. You can tap the Back button to return to the Google Voice app, where you’ll see the “Inbox synchronization” page. Tap “Finish,” to see your Google Voice inbox. This is where you can play back voicemail messages, view transcriptions, or see texts sent to your Google Voice number.
- To adjust any of your settings, tap Menu -> More -> Settings. From here you can change activate “Do not disturb” or change your call placement settings. Under “Sync and notifications,” you can decide whether your text messages also go to your phone’s Messages app.
This is all the setup you need to use Google Voice with your Android phone as long as you don’t mind using your minutes. If you want to make free VoIP calls that don’t use your minutes, follow the instructions below.
Part Three: Setting up your SipGate account
I recommend using your desktop computer rather than your mobile browser for this part.
Note: Parts Three and Four are optional. You need them only if you want to make free VoIP calls with your iPhone that don’t use your minutes, or if you want to connect your Google Voice number with an analog telephone adapter for free home phone service. Also, SipGate is not the only option for VoIP service. If there is another SIP-based VoIP service you prefer, you can configure it using these instructions, but you’ll have to find the necessary configuration information in your VoIP account.
- Go to https://secure.sipgate.com/register/code. Enter your cell number to receive a text message with instructions for signing up. Make sure you choose “SipGate One,” which is free. Make a note of your SipGate number. You can always find it again by signing into your account, clicking “Settings” and then “Phone Numbers.”
Note: Your new SipGate number is a normal phone number, and can be called directly from any phone. Incoming calls are free. Outgoing calls cost 2 cents per minute at the time of this writing. Combining your SipGate number with Google Voice allows you to make calls in such a way that SipGate treats them as free incoming calls.
Part Four: Configure your Android phone’s SIP settings
Note: If you’re running Android 2.2 or lower, VoIP is not integrated into your phone settings, and you’ll have to use a third-party SIP client such as Sipdroid or Groove IP. These instructions may still be helpful, but you’ll have to find the appropriate settings in your client of choice.
- Log into your SipGate account. Click “Settings” on the upper left part of the screen, then “SIP Credentials” on the right. A popup will appear with your SIP credentials, which you can print if you wish. This will show you the information you need to configure you Android phone’s SIP settings.
- From your phone’s homescreen, tap Menu, then Settings, then Call Settings. Scroll down to the bottom where it says “Internet call settings.” Tap Accounts, then Add account.
- Enter your SipGate SIP-ID as your username, and SIP-Password as your password. Under “Server,” enter “sipgate.com.”
- Uncheck “Set as primary account” unless you want to use this setup for all calls.
- Tap your Back button. You should now see your SipGate account listed under “SIP accounts” with the words “Not receiving calls” beneath it.
- Check the box next to “Receive incoming calls.” Within a few seconds, your SIP account’s status will change to “Receiving calls.” Later, if you want to turn off SIP calling to save battery life, just uncheck this box.
Part Five: Set up forwarding from Google Voice to SipGate
- From your phone’s Home screen, go to Menu -> Settings -> Call Settings. Scroll down to “Internet call settings” and tap Accounts. Make sure “Receive incoming calls” is checked.
- Log into your Google Voice account on your desktop computer. Click “Settings” then “Phones.”
- Click “Add Phone.”
- You’ll be asked to enter the type of phone, the number, and a phone name that you select. Select “Home” under phone type and enter your 10 digit SipGate number. (This is the number I told you to write down in Part Three. If you didn’t write it down, log into your SipGate account, click “Settings” then “Phone Numbers.”)
- Click “Save.” After you click “Save,” a message will pop up telling you that the number needs to be verified. A 2-digit code will be displayed. Click “Confirm.”
- Your Android phone will ring. Accept the call, then tap the dialpad button in the upper right corner below the volume button. When prompted, enter the 2-digit Google Voice verification code. You will be told that your phone is now verified.
Part Six: Place VoIP calls on your Android Phone
This is the part where we put all the pieces together so you can make free Google Voice calls without using your cell phone minutes.
SipGate does not charge for incoming calls, but they do charge a per minute rate for outgoing calls. We’re going to get around this by originating the calls from the Google Voice mobile website so that SipGate will treat each call as a free incoming call.
Note: There are some third-party apps that claim to provide Google Voice callback functionality. I haven’t tried any of them and therefore can’t make any recommendations. Also, Google periodically changes the Google Voice API in ways that break the functionality of these apps, so there’s no guarantee they will always work when you need them. Initiating callbacks through your phone’s browser is probably the most reliable method.
Here’s how you place calls:
- From your phone’s homescreen, go to Menu -> Settings -> Call Settings. Scroll down to “Internet call settings” and tap Accounts. Make sure “Receive incoming calls” is checked.
- Tap the Home button.
- Open your web browser and go to www.google.com/voice/m. You should save this site as a bookmark or homescreen shortcut.
- Log in with your Google Voice credentials.
- Scroll down until you see Quick Call and a text input field. Tap the input field and type the phone number you want to call. Tap Call.
- Your Android phone will ring. When you accept the incoming call, Google Voice will place the call you dialed.
- You can also place calls by tapping Contacts, selecting a contact, and tapping Call.
Part Seven: Additional ways to use Google Voice on your Android phone
Send and receive texts through Google Voice
To send a text message from your Google Voice number, open the Google Voice app, tap Menu, then Compose. If you start typing a contact’s name in the “To” field, a dropdown menu will appear with matching contacts.
In the Google Voice app, under Menu -> More -> Settings -> Sync and notifications, you can choose to receive GV texts with your phone’s messaging app. You may want to choose this option if you spend a lot of time in places with a poor data signal. When you reply to a Google Voice text from your Messaging app, your reply will go through Google Voice and will show your GV number as the caller ID.
Make Google Voice calls without using VoIP
In the Google Voice app, under Menu -> More -> Settings -> Making calls, you can choose which calls should go through Google Voice. Because I still use both my cell number and my GV number, I have my phone set to ask every time I make a call. With this setting, every time I place a call, a popup appears, and I can choose. This is also a good way to prevent butt-dialing. 😉
Any time you choose to place a call through Google Voice, your Google Voice number will show up on the other person’s caller ID.
Use Google Voice as your landline
If you have an analog telephone adapter, you can configure it for use with Google Voice and your regular landline telephone.
Use Google Voice with your iPhone or iPod Touch
Use Google Voice with your Windows Mobile phone
If you have a Windows Mobile device (not Windows Phone 7), you can configure it as a VoIP phone using Fring.
Use Google Voice with your Nokia Internet Tablet
If you have a Nokia N-series internet tablet, you can configure it for use as a wifi phone using Google Voice and Gizmo.
Make cheap international calls
Google Voice calls within the continental US and Canada are free through 2012. You can also make international calls starting at about 2 cents per minute if you buy calling credit with GV. Log into your Google Voice account at http://www.google.com/voice/ and go to Settings -> Billing -> Add Credit.
Use multiple Google Voice and/or SIP accounts to turn your Android device into a multi-line phone and manage your privacy
I live in a gated condominium community. The gate has a call box that allows me to unlock the gate for visitors from my phone. The call box only calls phone numbers within a certain area code, and I didn’t have a number with that area code when I moved here. To solve that problem, I set up a new Google Voice account with the right area code, forwarded it through a second SipGate account, and set it up as a SIP account on my Android phone. As a side benefit, because the gate phone doesn’t call my main phone number, I can use Google Voice’s “Do not disturb” feature on that line when I’m not expecting someone. That way I can let my friends in, but I don’t have to be bothered by pranksters or someone entering the wrong unit number. Also, because my phone is rooted and can make VoIP calls over the 3G network, I can use it to unlock the gate for myself if I ever forget my key.