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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 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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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,


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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Way back in  July of 2007 I signed up for VoIP phone service with Sunrocket.  They sent me a telephone adapter, called a “Analog Telephone Adapter” or ATA, which connected to my land-line phone and my internet connection, enabling me to make calls over the internet from any normal phone.  I enjoyed the service for about one month before Sunrocket went out of business.

Sunrocket did not ask for their device back.  Unfortunately, they had “provisioned” the ATA so that it only worked with Sunrocket’s service.  You couldn’t use it anywhere else.  Someone developed a solution for unlocking the device, but I lacked some critical knowledge and couldn’t make the solution work for me.  So I ended up with a perfectly good piece of hardware that I couldn’t use.  I put it on a shelf in the back of my closet, and there it remained for the next 2 years, like Sleeping Beauty waiting for her prince.

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The Nokia N810 excels as a VoIP Wifi phone.  I previously mentioned the device’s Skype capability, which I am so far pleased with.  It’s inexpensive and works well, and I recommend it.  This article will show you how to take things one step further by setting up your N810 to make and receive absolutely free phone calls to landlines and cell phones within the United States.  I’ll walk you through the entire setup process.

Things You’ll Need

  1. A Nokia N800 or N810 Internet Tablet.   If you don’t yet have one, you can purchase it here. This can also be done with a Wifi capable Blackberry or Windows Mobile device, but since I don’t have either of those, my instructions will focus on the N810.  Setting up other devices should be similar- you’ll just have to find the specific client programs yourself, and they may not be free.

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What is VOIP?

“VOIP” stands for “Voice Over Internet Protocol.”  Simply put, with VOIP, your phone conversations go over the internet rather than through landlines.

Okay, why does that matter?

The advantage to VOIP is that it is far less expensive.  For example, the first phone service I ever had was absolute bare bones.  No Call Waiting, no Caller ID, no Voice Mail – just plain old telephone service.  Including taxes, I paid about $28 per month.  The cost only goes up from there.  I just did a quick internet search and discovered that in my area, Verizon charges $40 per month before taxes for unlimited calling to the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico.  If I want voicemail, caller ID and call waiting, I would pay $45 per month before taxes.

I have all that and more for about $17 per month through VOIP.com.

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