Even if you hold your laptop up to your face like a flip phone, talking into your computer is lame. You want to use Google Voice like a real phone—with buttons and stuff. We'll tell you how.
If you don't have it already, you're going to need a Google Voice account. It's easy. If you live in the US, you can get a Google Voice number right here, right now, for free. Do it. Now, each method we'll detail will need some minor setup on the Google Voice side of things, so get to know it a little bit. The main setting you'll be monkeying with is getting Google Voice to forward calls to the right number. Basically:
• Log onto Google Voice • Hit the Settings button in the upper right hand corner. • Click on "Add another phone", and punch in whatever number you want. • GV will call that number to confirm.
The High Roller: Ooma Telo
If Google Voice's ability to unite all your numbers—not its cost—is what you're most interested in, this is the solution for you. Ooma might look like a router, but it's so much more. On its own, the system actually provides free, unlimited VoIP home phone service for the rest of your life. (Well, you still have to shell out for the thing, but it sure beats being a monthly prisoner of the telcos.) The Telo's greatest talent, though, might be how seamlessly it integrates with Google Voice, letting you easily make and receive calls from and to your Google Voice number. Once you get the setup, ahem, dialed, it works effortlessly with GVoice, ringing when people call your virtual phone, displaying your account's number when you dial out, and forwarding missed calls to your Google voicemail.
•What it is Ooma is a hardware-based VoIP service that lets you plug in any handset and make free calls. •What you'll need A Web connection, a phone—even a rotary model will work—and the Telo base unit. •What it costs $250 for the basic system, ~$3/month for taxes (NY), and $10/month for the premium services that let you really power-use Google Voice The setup is dead-simple: • Connect the Ooma between your router and broadband modem, and plug a regular phone into the regular phone jack. • To get the incoming side of things in working order set up GV so it forwards calls to the number Ooma assigns you. • For outgoing calls, the first thing you need to do is pay up: $10/month for the premier service. • Then click on the "Google Voice" tab in the browser-based Ooma settings page • Click the box that says "Use Google Voice as my outgoing number." Boom.
On the Cheap: Linksys PAP2
The Linksys PAP2 is a little box that turns any home phone into a full-fledged VoIP phone. It's so simple: You just plug your home phone into the PAP2's jack and plug the PAP2 into your home network. That's it; your hardware setup is done. The real magic (and work) lies in the VoIP service we'll use: Sipgate, a VoIP service that gives you a free phone number. When combined with Google Voice, it's as perfect a solution as $0/month will buy you: Sipgate gives you free incoming calls and Google Voice gives you free outgoing calls. You won't notice any difference when it comes to receiving calls—your home phone will ring, just like it did with your landline. Making outgoing calls is a little less convenient because you'll need to use Google Voice's website to set up calls but that tiny trade leaves you completely free of monthly dues.
•What it is An adapter that turns any phone into a VoIP-slinger. •What you'll need A Linksys PAP2 adapter, any ol' landline phone, and a Sipgate account. •What it costs $60 for the PAP2, nothing for the service, and nothing for the phone (grab that one from your grandma's sewing room—she's always bitching about how nobody calls her anyway).
Here's how to do it: • Sign up for Sipgate and get your free phone number. • Set up Google Voice to forward calls to your new Sipgate number. • Plug a phone into your PAP2, grab a pencil, and dial "****" • After the prompt, dial 110# (here's why you need the pencil), and write down the IP address it recites back. • Type that IP address in your browser • On the resulting page, go to "Admin Login" and choose "Line 1" • Insert the proper info, Sipgate's website has detailed instructions on the exact information you'll need to plug into your PAP2. It's right here.
Ulimate Irony: Use an Old Jailbroken iPhone
Sure, your old first-gen iPhone may not have the horsepower to run iOS4, but you can hack it to kick your shiny, new, legit model's ass in terms of reception: Use it as a Wi-Fi-only landline. Because a jailbroken iPhone can run apps in the background, you can keep a VoIP app and Google Voice up and running at all times. To get a phone number, we're gonna use Sipgate again, as well as the GV Mobile+ and Acrobits Softphone apps. With those two apps, you can turn your iPhone into a one-stop VoIP phone: incoming calls will ring through Acrobits Softphone, which is conveniently running in the background. For outgoing calls, dial through GV Mobile+'s interface, and your GV number will appear as your caller ID.
•What it is An old iPhone, given a new life by the magic of jailbreaking •What you'll need Any previous-gen phone will do. •What it costs Free.99 if the phone's collecting dust in a drawer; as little as 100 bucks on Craigslist—go for that Gen 1 model you miss so much! $2.99 for GV Mobile+ and $6.99 for Acrobits Softphone
Here's how: • First, jailbreak your iPhone. • Download GV Mobile+ and Acrobits Softphone from the App Store. • Get a Sipgate account and your free phone number • Have Google Voice forwards calls to the Sipgate number • Add your Sipgate credentials to Acrobits Softphone. It's not hard: you're basically just plugging in your number and user name. • In GV Mobile+, head to the Settings tab and change the 'Phone to Ring' from "No Phone" to your Sipgate number.
There's obviously some work involved with using Google Voice as your landline (and the fact that you can't call 911 with GV) but there's also an immediate payoff: cash moneys in your pocket! If that's not enough, your voicemail is insanely improved and you'll always have the same number wherever you are. Don't be afraid, with Google Voice you can ditch your landline and those monthly bills forever.