Before we get into the midst of things, I'll go ahead and state that I'm an iPhone user. I understand Sprint and Android integrations exist, and they may be wonderful. However, I'll be speaking from the stance of an iPhone user. Now, on to the good stuff!
What is this Google Voice thing?
To keep the explanation brief, Google Voice allows you to take your telephone experience online. Not online in the sense of being social (your phone has always been about that), but online in the sense of being available in your web browser. Just like Gmail. It's Gmail for your phone number. You can explore what Google has to say about the service here.
With a full Google Voice number (not just routing your voicemail, which is their basic service), a few of the best features include:
- Making phone calls from your browser, or within Gmail
- Sending text messages from your browser (by far my favorite feature)
- Accessing your voicemails from your browser, complete with transcription (to be fair, this only marginally works)
- The ability to unify multiple phone numbers under one main number
An overview of my history with Google Voice
When I decided to start using Google Voice, I knew I would want the full functionality, not just the voicemail. I took the nasty, dreadful plunge of letting all my contacts know I had a new number... my Google Voice number.
Now, this was during a time where no official Google Voice app for the iPhone existed. There weren't any decent third party applications either. For the first few months I used the web app provided by Google. I'm not going in to the experience there, as it's no longer relevant.
The first real application I settled on was GV Mobile +. I used GV Mobile + even after the official Google Voice app was released. It took the Google team quite a while to get things working properly. I eventually settled on using the oficial Google Voice app to handle all text messages and phone calls from my iPhone.
So, now we're down to it. Here are the things I really enjoyed about using Google Voice:
- Free texting, and being able to ditch your texting plan all together
- Being able to text from the browser just as easy as you would chat with someone (and even respond to a text message via email, if you wanted)
- Having a complete and searchable record of every text and voicemail
- The Google Voice app, even the newest version, never quite worked correctly
- All calls have to be placed through an app... this throws any system integrations (calling numbers from websites, notes, other applications) out the window
- Placing a call was more difficult if you didn't have a data signal (it also required you to have a data signal)
- If you happened to place a call without using an app (or just forgot) the person on the other end would see the phone number for your device
What about jailbreaking, you ask?
I did try this for a while, and you can definitely make it work. You'll need to spend a few dollars to properly integrate Google services into your phone. This will allow you to dial using the stock phone application, but use your Google Voice number. It will also route incoming text messages from Google Voice to the stock messages application. At the time, I used the SMS GV Extension and the Voice GV Extension. It looks as if they've now been picked up by a different developer, and offered for free. The closest install page I could find is [here] (http://www.techimperial.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=739 "iOS 6 GV Extensions").
In the end, the convenience of being able to pick up my phone and make a call (whether that be from the phone, after viewing a business in maps, from a note, etc.) won out. It's the way it's supposed to work without having to worry about which jailbroken apps or installed, and if they're going to work properly.
Most carriers are now offering unlimited texting plans by default, making free texting not as important.
All in all, Google Voice ended up being a lot of hassle for a little gain, even though i tried to convince myself otherwise while I was using it. That said, I very much miss texting from my web browser.