5 Cool Things You Can Do With Google Voice

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antiquephoneWhen I first heard about Google Voice, I immediately submitted my email for an invite, and within a few weeks I received one. April first provided a review of Google Voice and offered 100 invites right here at MUO. Since then, Google continued to progress with Google Voice and add more features.

My initial excitement about Voice quickly faded when I learned that Google Voice will not let you port over your home number yet – although you can use your mobile number, but you’ll be limited to primarily only using the voicemail feature. As I’ve been waiting patiently for Google to offer home number porting (which Google’s help page promises is a feature that’s “coming soon”), I’ve noticed that more cool features keep getting added on to the service, so I thought it’s about time for a list of 5 cool things that you can do with Google Voice.

1. Integrate Google Voice for All Mobile Calls

Obviously, once you sign up with Google Voice, you’ll want to install the mobile app onto your phone. Google Voice offers integrated mobile apps for all major phones, including Android, Blackberry, iPhone and others. Once you install Voice on your phone, you can check your voicemail, send and receive calls, and check your current account balance (Internet and data plan needed for account connection).

how does google voice work

Most importantly, once you’ve installed the Google Voice app, you can receive calls on your mobile phone from your Google number. You can also dial out from your cell phone using the app, and people will see your Google Voice number, not your cell phone number.

how does google voice work

Just click on “Call with Google Voice,” and your call will get routed through your Voice account. Why is this useful? Imagine you’re starting a new business and you’d like a unique number that you can route to different phones depending on who’s calling. Create one group of contacts that rings your phone, a second group that rings your mobile, and so on.

2. Listen In to Your Voicemail

Remember the days when you had a voice message recorder, and when a caller would start leaving a message, you would also hear the voice from the speaker? With the advent of digital voicemail, that ability to screen calls by listening to the beginning of the message is a disappearing luxury. Well, Google brings it back by integrating ListenIn (TM) service into Google Voice. The way it works is really simple. First, in your Voice account, make sure that under “Call” settings, “Call Presentation” is enabled.

how does google voice work

This tells the system that when someone calls you, you’d like to have the option to handle the call in a variety of ways. You can press (1) to immediately accept, (2) to immediately send to voicemail while listening in and pressing (*) if you want to jump into the call.

3. Automatic Transcription of Every Voicemail

While the bugs aren’t quite all worked out of the system yet, the transcription feature works well enough that you can pretty much understand what the person was saying. In the following text call, I used the “listen in” feature, and from the calling-in phone I left a message that went, “This is a test voicemail for a MakeUseOf article.” You can check your voicemails either online or from your phone.


As you can see, the first half of the sentence was transcribed perfectly. The second had “14” instead of “for a”, but “Make Use of” is understandable and close enough. “Our call” was an obvious near miss of “article,” however you can see that those two words are grayed out because the system had a hard time recognizing those words.

4. Recording Phone Calls

Make sure it’s legal where you live, but another option when you have an incoming call is to press (1) and (4) to accept the call and record it. Yup, record it – which brings me to the next cool Google Voice feature, recording phone calls for interviews, police interrogations, or simply to have a record of the conversation.


There’s no transcription available for recorded conversations, so you’ll need to log into your Voice account to play back the conversation. You can email the file to someone, download it as an MP3 file, or embed it into a website.

5. Customizing Greetings and Other Group Settings

As I mentioned earlier, one of the coolest features of Voice that makes the system ultra-flexible is the fact that you can customize how Google handles and routes your phone calls. It essentially acts as a personal secretary – a phone switchboard that can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.


Under “Settings” and “Groups”, you can create any group that you like, and edit individual settings as shown above. Select what phone (or phones) should ring, select (or record) a special greeting, and you can even disable Call Presentation for a particular group so that the call immediately starts when you pick up, rather than offering you the usual options to forward to voicemail.

The real promise of Google Voice is home phone number portability – the potential for doing away with our dependency on the phone company or the cable company for overpriced phone service. Why pay a monthly fee, when you could have your home phone number ported over to Google Voice, and manage how incoming calls are routed (to individual family cellphones, or to work phones) depending on who’s calling?

While the voicemail feature is extremely useful and versatile, the potential of home phone portability, which Google promises in the near future, could completely transform the playing field in the telecommunications industry and revolutionize home telephone service as we know it, or it could fall flat on its face and go down as one of Google’s most significant failed initiatives to date. It will be fascinating to see if Google can manage to make this baby fly.

For another solution, remember you can always use a cordless phone with an answering machine The Best Cordless Phone With an Answering Machine of 2019 The Best Cordless Phone With an Answering Machine of 2019 Even if you have a smartphone, a home phone is still useful. Here are the best cordless phones with an answering machine. Read More .

Explore more about: Google Voice, Voice Message, Voicemail.

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  1. Anonymous
    June 21, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    I use Google Voice as my work phone number, then connect it to my cell phone. This way, when I am on vacation or out of the office, I can set Google voice to take messages rather than forward to my cell. I can even change the greeting callers hear to say I am out of the office. Its a great way to avoid interruptions on vacation, and I can still review the text message in case its something I want to address promptly.

  2. Anonymous
    May 11, 2010 at 8:13 am

    Another interesting use : you can set up to forward your cell phone calls to google voice when out of the country. "network forwarding on " You then automatically get transcribed emails when someone calls your regular cell phone so that way you dont miss out on any regular phone calls when out of the country. You can then e mail them back or call from skype.

  3. stan
    April 13, 2010 at 10:08 am

    I have had Google Voice since it was Grand Central. Generally works great but I just added a new number and set up Google Voice to forward all calls to that new number (which no one else had at that point). Within less than a minute I started getting spam calls for credit card deals on the number. Coincidence? Or is Google selling their users numbers to third parties via some kind of automated system?

  4. nick
    March 21, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Just got A nexus one could anyone spare an invite

  5. Sam
    March 10, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    The only way I can see to receive calls on my cell phone from Google Voice is to have GV route the call to my cell phone. So, as far as I can tell, that is a call terminated at my cell phone (and using up cell phone minutes). The calls I make out using google voice are VOIP. Am I understanding that correctly?

  6. Amani
    March 5, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    Love Google Voice. Thanks for the tip about recording a conversation. Could be very useful. How can you change the name of a caller if two different callers are calling you from the same number? (for example a place of business).

    • Ryan Dube
      March 5, 2010 at 6:35 pm

      Hey Amani - you stumped me with that one. I believe that Google voice bases identification on the phone number, so I'm not sure how that particular situation would work!

  7. MikeVertx
    March 4, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    I'm sorry if it's there and I just don't see it, but what's the best way to set up a windows mobile device to beable to DIAL OUT using your google voice # and a quick way to check voicemail? also was trying to figure out how to set up group texting, help would be greatly appreciated :)

    Thanks in advance~!

    • Ryan Dube
      March 5, 2010 at 6:34 pm

      Hey Mike - as far as I know, nothing free. I think Onedialer is one solution but it's not free.

  8. Tim
    March 1, 2010 at 8:49 am

    For a while, I was beleaguered with carrying around one cell phone for work and another personal one. I did not want to give out my personal number to all my work clients, nor did I want to give up my personal number. Google Voice, along with my Motorola Droid, allows me to have a two-line cell phone. I was surprised that there were not any options out there in the US market for a two-line cell phone. Even the European offerings were quite slim. My setup allows me to get calls dialed to two numbers delivered to one phone and make outgoing the same way. This is by far the best alternative out there for this situation!

  9. Ray
    February 27, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    You should see the other hilarious translations at http://gvWTF.com

  10. Mark
    February 27, 2010 at 8:57 am

    I'm so confused by Google voice.

    Is it a program that requires cloud computing or an app that runs on a Nexus One?

    If it is an app that runs on iPhones, is it just like the app that runs on Nexus One? Are the iPhone and Nexus One functionalities the same (with respect to hands free iPhone operation)?

    • Ryan Dube
      February 28, 2010 at 10:37 pm

      Mark - no app necessary. From within Google Voice you can assign the phone numbers that you want to ring when people call your Google Voice phone number. Your phone will ring without any special applications installed. The apps are only needed if you want to check your account and see if you have any voicemail.

  11. Andrew
    February 26, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    So, if i bought an unlocked phone, are there options to purchase a data plan only for my phone, so i could call and text using Voice?

    • Ryan Dube
      February 26, 2010 at 12:21 pm

      Andrew - only the Voice download that I mentioned for mobile apps require a data plan to access your account details. If you have an unlocked phone, you don't need to download anything. Just go into your Google Voice account and configure it to work with your cellphone number. Google Voice calls your phone over the cell line (not data) - so you're all set once you add the phone number to your account. Good luck!

  12. mike
    February 26, 2010 at 8:18 am

    The predecessor to Google Voice was GrandCentral. That service had a feature that allowed you to block unwanted calls by phone number. It was the equivalent of sending phone numbers to a spam box and they could not get through again. Google: where did that go? I want it back!! We know you can do it because it was there before and worked just fine.

    • Wyatt
      February 26, 2010 at 12:14 pm

      mike the block option is still there. under the message you will see Call - SMS - more. go under the more tab and you will see the block caller option. enjoy!

  13. Slipdisc
    February 25, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    I knew most of his before but nonetheless there is some good info. Thanks for sharing.