Use Google Voice As Your Voicemail ServiceUPDATE: Google Voice has added the Voicemail ability natively. My directions at the end of this article are no longer necessary.
Google Voice is a great service. In its intended use, it serves as a way to allow people to contact you no matter where you are without knowing where you are. When you sign up, you get a phone number (in whatever area/city code you choose). This is the number that you give to people so that they can contact you. Then, through the Google Voice interface, you register all of your actual phone numbers. If you have a landline at home, a landline at work, and a cell phone you can register all three phones. When someone calls your Google Voice number, it will ring all three of your registered phones to ensure that you are reached, thus eliminating the need for the caller to know whether you are at home, work, or elsewhere.
That is, of course, only one use. You can set schedules for your phones, so that only certain phones are rung at certain times on certain days among an endless number of other configurations. That, however, is only the tip of the iceberg. Google Voice has many more features which make it a great service.
The biggest benefit of Google Voice is their voicemail feature. If it happens that you can't be reached on any of your phones, the caller is directed to Google's own voicemail service. What makes this so special? First, each voicemail message you receive is transcribed to text and can be emailed to you and/or sent to your cell as a text message. The transcriptions aren't perfect, but they save you a lot of time by allowing you to skim some text to determine whether the call you missed was important or not rather than dialing into your voicemail, listening to a message, etc. They are also stored in the Google Voice interface, which looks strikingly similar to the GMail interface.
The cool thing, though, is that you can use Google's voicemail service to replace your existing voicemail service. In my case, I want people, no matter if they call my Google Voice number or my real cell number, to be sent to the Google voicemail service. I really like the transcription and email/text alerts and want to use them all of the time. It's possible to program your phone to redirect certain calls to another number. It's kind of like call forwarding, but more specific. All of the details can be found on the Call Forwarding Wikipedia page. What we can do is tell our cell phone to forward all unanswered calls to our Google Voice number and have our Google Voice number go straight to voicemail. Here's how (for GSM phones).
- From your phone:
- Dial: *61*1111111111#
- Replace 1111111111 with your 10-digit Google Voice number
- Click on Settings
- Click on Edit for your registered phone
- Click on Show advanced settings
- Choose Never ring on weekdays and Never ring on weekends in the Ring Schedule section
- Save your changes
- Click on the Calls tab
- Check Enable "Do Not Disturb"
- This is a safety feature for those of you with multiple numbers registered to ensure that they don't ring
If you ever want to undo everything and go back to the way it used to be, you can simply undo the changes we made in the Google Voice interface and dial #61# on your phone to disable the call forwarding.
WarningConfiguring Google Voice to not ring any of your phones defeats the original intent of the service and it can no longer be used to ring your other phones in order to find you. If you like that feature, do not follow the steps listed above.