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Tip Jar: Getting More Out of Google Voice

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With invites going out every day and Google (s goog) and Apple (s aapl) being in the news many times over because of the rejection of its native Google Voice app for the iPhone, many are giving this service a close look. If you’re a Mac or iPhone user, here are some tips that’ll help you get the most out of this service.

Unlocked Phone? Free calls!

Though officially iPhone users in the U.S. should be on the AT&T (s att) network, if you’re using another carrier, you may be able to use your Google Voice number to get around your monthly allotment of minutes. Some carriers, like T-Mobile, offer the ability to provide a list of “frequently” used numbers that do not impact the minutes allowed on a monthly plan. Since Google is footing the bill for connecting calls between a Google Voice number and any other number inside the U.S., simply adding your Google number to your “favorite list” results in free calls. It’s too bad AT&T doesn’t support this feature.

No GV Mobile? No problem!

The internets were in a tizzy last week over the removal of GV Mobile from Apple’s App Store, leaving iPhone users with Google’s mobile website to place calls. If you are one of few who have jailbroken your phone, you can find GV Mobile through Cydia. For more information, check out Sean Kovacs website.

If jailbreaking isn’t your bag, then no problem! The traditional way that Google Voice works is that you simply call your Google Voice number and then press “2.” From here, you can dial the outgoing call as normal. For those who frequently are calling contacts with their Google Voice number, here’s a quick way to simplify the process.

In your iPhone’s address book, you can add another number for a contact and format it so that your iPhone does all the dirty work of calling Google and connecting the call for you.

The process is simple. Create a new contact entry for your desired contact and for their number, insert your own Google number. Then press the “+*#” key and then the “pause” button to insert a pause. Now type a “2” followed by another “pause” and finally the desired phone number for the contact. Now you’ve told your iPhone to dial Google, initiate a new call and contact the number you’ve selected. Here’s how it should look:

Programming Google Voice numbers through iPhone

Though dialing will take slightly longer, it’s all automated and the other person will see your Google number when their phone rings! Depending on your settings, you may also need to input your PIN number with appropriate pauses. Also, make sure your Google Voice account is setup to allow direct access to voicemail when calling from your phone. These options are all in your Google Voice settings.

Google Voice On Your Mac

If your browser of choice is Firefox, developer Chad Smith has developed a plugin that quickly allows users to click any phone number on the web and dial and connect via their Google Voice number. This free plugin is available here.

Are you a Google Voice user? Have you discovered other neat tips and tricks? Do you love it? Do you hate it? Sound off and share your thoughts!

26 Responses to “Tip Jar: Getting More Out of Google Voice”

  1. How is calling a number within the google call itself considered a free call ( assuming you used your own phone) ? Wouldn’t calling Google voice itself a paid call ?

  2. This is a pretty slick workaround. It takes a minute to call someone, but I prefer it over not having Google Voice so far.

    People at work today were installing Google Voice on their Blackberries while people with iPhones are dealing with workarounds like this. It’s ironic, don’t you think? I don’t think Apple can stay out of the game for too long.

  3. Mohammad

    Another neat and free trick I’ve discovered for using GV on my iPhone is to get one of those Phone Card Apps (I use a free one called Card Caller Free). These apps allow you to set up a phone card number that will be “prefixed” to the phone number you want to call. In my case, the phone card is actually my GV number. So I would add the following sequence:

    – Dial GV number
    – Pause
    – 2
    – Pause

    In the app CardCaller, you get access to all your contacts in a view identical to that of the phone App, and you also get a Favorites tab. This is the best solution I have found, and it’s working very well for me. Try it out, hope you enjoy it!

  4. Go to and ask for an invite.

    I love Google Voice. Even without the app I’m getting a lot of use from it on my iPhone. You can read about this all over the Internet but I’ll mention it here in case people don’t know:

    You can direct dial people from your phone once they’ve texted you at your Google Voice number. When they send a text you’ll see it as coming from a 406 area code number – a block of numbers in Montana that Google controls. You can direct dial that 406 number from one of your GV registered phones to call the person. The benefit is they’ll see the call as coming from your GV number and will start using it to contact you. And you get to direct dial without having GV software on your phone.

    On my iPhone once I add that 406 number to my contacts the incoming texts show as the person and not the number. I can send a text to that number from my GV active mobile using the iphone’s native SMS interface and it will appear to come from me.

    Tricky part: The 406 number you use to call your friend Steve J is different than the 406 number a different GV user will use to call the same Steve J. The 406 number and a given GV number combine to create a mapping to a “real” mobile phone. Further, calling that 406 number from a non-GV phone will result in a call that isn’t completed. So – you can’t tell your friend what 406 number to use to call Steve J. The 406 number YOU use to call Steve J only works for YOUR GV account.

    It’s a mapping system that gets tons of use out the 406 numbers Google acquired. And though it’s been done before it’s still cool.

  5. Use Fluid on the Mac and create a great menu add-in that simply displays the Google Voice home page. From there you can get all your vmails, dial contacts directly on the Mac, etc.