Why is Google Voice an essential web app for any smartphone power user? Well, on a fundamental level, it's convenient to say the least--it allows you to synch all of your phones to a single number, which is extremely useful if you swap handsets often. There are, however, many more features you can utilize to really customize your Google Voice experience. Read on to learn more.
Establish Calling Groups
Real Google Voice power users use calling groups.
This is one of the most helpful resources of all time. Under the Settings window, click forward to the “Manage Groups” page that allows you to add an unlimited number of people either to one of the five default groups listed in Google Voice- or a custom group of your own making. In doing so, you can isolate individuals in a bunch of different useful ways. For example, you can specify that anyone in your “Coworkers” group who calls your Google number is automatically routed to your work phone, delivered a specific greeting if they bounce to voicemail, and allowed to dial through to you unscreened.
Lockdown Your Phone
Google Voice can be downright handy in its ability to dial up all the different phones you control whenever anyone calls. But do you really want your apartment or office breaking out in a cacophony of sound every time someone calls? Google’s solution is buried in the Phones > Edit > Show advanced settings window off of the main settings page. Nestled within this link is a series of options that you can customize for each phone you’ve added to Google Voice, including scheduling times for when you want Google Voice to forward a call to a specific phone. Or not.
Integrate Voice Into Your Digital Life
There are a number of ways to integrate Google Voice into your daily habits without having to fire up the site itself. Firefox users will want to check out either Google Shortcuts or the aptly named Google Voice Add-On for Firefox if you want to place calls directly via a browser button. Google Chrome users have it a bit easier (go figure), as Google itself has written a Chrome extension to build quick-call access directly into the browser itself. If neither of these add-ons pique your interest, you can always opt for a lesser approach and integrate Google Voice into your Gmail window.
Mash ‘em Up
Voxox (www.voxox.com) is great because it allows you to manage Google Voice interactions, IM chats, and social network connections in one central location. When you install the program and sign up for this free service, you get a single phone number, which you want to link to Google Voice. The caveat is that only incoming calls and texts are free – attempting to use the service to make outgoing calls or, worse, send outgoing texts will incur a separate fee.
Get Rid of Your Landline, Forever!
Gizmodo’s Casey Chan recently authored an excellent how-to guide for using a device called the Telo to make and receive free VoIP calls. But instead of doing this across your PC a la Skype, Ooma’s $250 Telo bridges together a real, physical handset with Google Voice. You can find the how-to at http://gizmo.do/ep0Dot.
Turn Google Voice into Skype
If you want to use an old-fashioned headset and mic to dial up your friends via Google Voice, Sipgate can help. The free version of the program/service gives you one free phone number (which you’ll tie into Google Voice) and an app that lets you access service via a typical headset/mic combination. Here’s the trick: Since Sipgate only gives you a certain block of time for free calls, you’ll want to dial friends using Google Voice (which, in turn, rings your Sipgate number) and answer common phone calls via Sipgate’s app.
Set Up Ringing by Location, not Time
What if you don’t want to block calls to your phone based on the time of day, but your location? This isn’t a trick you can do with all mobile devices, as we’ve only managed to locate instructions for Android-based phones thus far. That said, blogger Chad Smith has written up a pretty extensive guide for setting up Google Voice so that calls are forwarded based on your location. To do so, you’ll need an Android phone, the Locale geo-location app (www.twofortyfouram.com), and this Lifehacker how-to: http://lifehac.kr/gvfASt.