What is VoIP?
VoIP stands for “Voice over Internet Protocol”. Also known by the much classier name of “telephony”, VoIP is the techie term for "making phone calls over the internet". Think of it like Skype, which is a VoIP provider. If you’re old, think of it like a new version of AIM.
Why would I want to integrate VoIP with my cellphone?
A better way to phrase this question might be "Why would I NOT want to integrate VoIP with my cellphone?" Integrating a VoIP client with your cell means that you can make phone calls or send text messages from the internet when your phone is unavailable. While this may initially sound boring, think of the possibilities! With VoIP calling, you can set up an old cellphone to be your "landline" and ring whenever your cellphone rings so that you don't have to frantically dig through your giant purse in the other room (or, if you're a guy, your nasty couch cushions) every time you hear something vibrate. [Note: if this sounds cool but you don’t want to integrate it with your cellphone, these instructions can also be used to set up a free landline at absolutely no cost to you.] If your phone dies while you are out, you can have your calls and texts forwarded to your boyfriend/friend/mom/sister/wife who is sitting right next to you. If you leave your phone in your car at that super awesome place you sort of remember from last night, you can still order pizza from your apartment the next morning. You can coordinate your weekend plans on Friday at work in the window next to that awesome spreadsheet you’re supposedly working on. When going on that sweet, sweet weekend trip you planned, if you discover that you have absolutely no service anywhere near the hotel then you can have your calls forwarded to your room. Interested?
Fine. What supplies do I need?
You will need:
A cellphone number.
A Google account.
An old smartphone, jailbroken if necessary*, with charger.
*It is necessary to jailbreak the phone if you can’t get onto the internet and download things (like apps) when it is turned on. For instructions on how to jailbreak an iPhone, click here. For instructions on how to jailbreak other phones, Google it. If you don’t know how to use Google, it's not going to work out between us. Go back to your solitaire game.)
Instructions on setting up a FREE VoIP account:
- Create a Google account if you don’t have one already (which you should).
- Go to google.com/voice and set up your account. You will need to verify that the phone number you put in is actually yours, so make sure your cell is handy.
- Download the Google Voice
app onto your smartphone and log in. If you have a dumbphone and can’t download
apps, don’t worry—you can still check your texts/make calls from your computer.
But you should really think about stepping into the 21st century.
Voilá! You are done. Easy enough. Google Voice does not charge for calls directed anywhere in the US or Canada. I do not personally call my millions of European friends all that often, so if you do, check the rates before you use this service. You may now set up Google Voice to be your client for text messages and phone calls from your cell, which will eliminate overages for minutes used and texts sent. That’s right, you will now be using data only, which will allow those who are on shared or limited plans to shave a few dollars off of your phone bills or even downgrade your monthly limits.
To Check Text Messages from a Computer:
You will need to have this window open:
All of your text messages will show up here. Reloading the window may be necessary depending on your browser.
To Make a Call from a Computer:
You will need to have this window open:
gmail.com (which will redirect you to mail.google.com, gmail.com is just easier to type)
· If you have an android phone, your contacts will already be saved in your Google account.
· If you have an iPhone, see these instructions on how to upload your contacts. (It's easy.)
· If you have another phone, Google it.
When your contacts have been uploaded, look at the left hand column (under the big red “Compose” button). You will see a search window under the “Chat” heading. Type in the person (or number) you want to call. A dialer will pop up in the lower right corner of the window. This dialer pops out (see the weird diagonal arrow icon?), and if you leave this window open on your computer, it will alert you to incoming calls and allow you to make outgoing calls.
A free Google Voice client (think the Skype app, but not the Skype app) or browser extension (an alert button directly on your internet browser) can also help you to make calls and receive texts on your computer.
For Mac: Voice Mac (open-source)
For Windows: GVMax (also integrates with Twitter), GVNotifier
For Google Chrome: Google Voice Extension (my personal favorite because it's unobtrusive and has a neat little Monty Python-ish "ping!")
Setting Up Your “Landline”
This is the part where you get to use that useless old smartphone that has been sitting in a drawer, just-in-case you drop your new phone into a bucket of Red Bull and your carrier doesn't convince you to buy a new one at the "super-secret" discount they've just been authorized to give you [Note: They are already authorized to give you a certain percentage off of a phone, you just have to ask for it and be a generally nice person].
All you have to do is connect your old phone to your wireless network and download the Google Voice mobile app, available in the App Store for your iPhone and the Google Play store for your Android. (If you have a different phone, you're on your own here. There are ways to download a file with an .apk extension and install the app on your phone but that is way too in-depth for this post.) Leave it running in the background (i.e, open it and then close the app window without actually exiting the app). I plug my phone in a corner of my living room and leave the volume turned down. Then when I am busy binging on Mad Men and hear my cell phone ring across the house, I just pick up the conveniently located phone that is charging next to the couch. Keeping the volume turned down helps my boyfriend retain his sanity when I am not around and my phone is ringing off the hook (sadly, this does not happen due to my profound popularity, but because I have an aversion to paying parking tickets and library fines).
Head to google.com/voice and hit the button on the right that looks like a Spacely Sprocket. Click settings from the dropdown menu. You may now add as many phone numbers as you want to your account. This will forward all of your calls and texts to these numbers. You need to have the forwarding phone in front of you in order to set it up because you’ll have to enter a code to verify it, but after that forwarding to any number can be turned on/off from this website by checking or unchecking the little box next to that particular number.
Other Fun Facts About Google Voice
- 1. Do Not Disturb is a terrific feature, which sends all of your calls to voicemail and turns all SMS notifications off on all of your phones/clients/extensions/etc. Very useful for getting things done. This can be toggled off/on in your account settings under the “Calls” tab.
- 2. Email Alerts: You can set up (or turn off) emailed alerts under Settings under the “Voicemail & Text” tab. The alerts will send you transcriptions of voicemails, which is convenient if you’re at work but not so much when you already get emails on your phone.
- 3. Call Screening: Also in settings under the “Calls” tab, this feature announces the caller before you pick up the phone. If you’re using your Google Voice line as a business line that is separate from your personal line, this can be good, but keep in mind that you will have to press “1” before picking up Every. Single. Phone call.
- 4. Spam Filtering: Numbers identified by Google as “Spam” will be sent directly to voicemail, and these messages will be stored in a separate folder in your account. You can personally mark numbers as Spam (your loony ex, for example, or your nasty neighbor who goes to bed at 8pm) and then you will not have to deal with these people. Blocking numbers is awesome too, because they hear a message that your line has been disconnected and then (ideally) stop trying to contact you.
- 5. If you really want to get crazy with this, you can set up different greetings based on the groups your contacts belong to. For instance, you could have a super-professional voicemail for all of your work numbers and unknown numbers, but your college buddies can get the classic, “…Hello?” voicemail that is oh-so-amusing after hearing it for the thousandth time. You can also set up different calls to forward to different numbers so that when a coworker calls over the weekend, it gets sent directly to voicemail, or so that the chick you're seeing on the side doesn't get forwarded to your girlfriend's phone while yours is MIA. If you're like that.
- 6. Call Widgets: Under the super-sneaky “Call Widgets” tab is the option to add a link on your webpage so that other Google Voice callers can contact you WITHOUT KNOWING YOUR NUMBER. This is great for people who do the whole freelance thing, so that your personal phone number isn’t up all over the internet but first-time clients can get in touch with you directly.