Google Voice: The ultimate iPhone how-to

Summary:Google fought Apple hard for the right to distribute a Google Voice iPhone app and won. This guide shows you how to get the most out of Google Voice on your iPhone.

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Welcome to the 2014 edition of the Ultimate Google Voice How-To Guide, presented by ZDNet's DIY-IT blog. In this article, and the baker's dozen that accompany it, you'll learn just about everything you need to know to get the most out of the Google Voice service. This guide contains a complete end-to-end update of our 2011 Google Voice guide, chock full of new ideas, completely new articles, and amazing tips.

You'll learn how to port your landline to Google Voice, how to set up phone handsets, how to integrate Google Voice into your iPhone and Android experience, how to set up a multi-line office, how to get the most out of using Google Voice and SMS, and even how to use Google Voice effectively and safely in your car, and lots more.

So brew up a cup of coffee or your favorite tea, grab a few snacks, and prepare to discover how plain 'ol phone calls are about to be transformed into something virtually indistinguishable from magic.

Let's look at how you can use Google Voice from your iPhone, how you can display your Google Voice number as your Caller ID, and how you can make minutes-free Google Voice VoIP calls via WiFi. For you Android folks, don't worry. Lots of neat Android tricks are coming up in the following articles.

This article assumes you've already got a working Google Voice account and it's linked to your phone. If you don't, please read the earlier articles in this series.

The basics: the Google Voice iPhone app

After a long struggle, the Google Voice app finally arrived on the iPhone back in November 2010. For those of you moving to Google Voice now, that battle is merely a historical backdrop for a very useful tool.

There are some very tangible benefits to using Google Voice on the iPhone. The first is that you get free text messages. You can send and receive as many text messages as you want from your Google Voice phone number, and you won't be charged a penny.

The second benefit (and the most important to me) is that you can make outgoing calls from Google Voice, and when you do, the Caller ID seen by the person you're calling is your Google Voice number, not your iPhone number. I don't like giving out my cell phone number. I'd much rather people have one number they can reach me at, regardless of what phone it's attached to.

You have more control of your incoming calls, too. I like how I can use Google Voice to sculpt which calls I get, and when. Since callers will be calling you on your Google Voice number, you can use all of those wonderful Google Voice features to determine who gets through and when.

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Finally, you can use Google Voice to set your answering message. In that way, regardless of whether someone rings through to your phone or not, they'll get your Google Voice answering message.

Linking voicemail to your phone

If you want to use Google Voice's voicemail, log into your Google Voice account on the Web, go to Voice Settings, and on the Phones tab, find your phone and click "Activate Google voicemail on this phone."

You'll be asked to type in a strange sequence of digits on your Phone app's number pad. Once you do, you'll get a set of status messages that indicate successful completion of the voicemail integration process.

Make sure you have a good mobile connection. I had no end of problems when I couldn't get good AT&T connectivity in my new house.

Install Google's Google Voice app

There are quite a number of Google Voice applications on the iPhone app store, but the one from Google is the canonical choice.

Next up: Outgoing calls with your GV caller ID and minutes-free VoIP calls...

I'm doing more updates on Twitter and Facebook than ever before. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz and on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz.

Topics: Google, iPhone, Mobility, Telcos

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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