Google Voice: A cheapskate's guide to cheap VoIP

Google Voice: A cheapskate's guide to cheap VoIP

Summary: Here's how you can make and receive Google Voice phone calls from any old wired phone you may have lying around your house. The only problem is that this might not be your best solution. That's coming in a later article.

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Using the OBi with Google Voice

But let's get back to Google Voice. Back in 2011, you could use either OBi model with Google Voice. I sprang for the extra ten dollars, even though I had almost no possible use for the extra port. It's a feature, and I just can't resist me them tasty features!

Before I go on, I should repeat what I said on the previous page. Google is discontinuing support of the XMPP protocol in May 2014. The Obi will no longer work with Google Voice after that date. 

That said, there were a couple of simple steps to setting this thing up. First, you'll need to hook it up, as I described above.

Next, you'll need to pop on over to obitalk.com and get yourself an OBiTALK account. It's this OBiTALK account that will bridge your Google Voice account with your OBi (at least until Google stops talking to OBi over XMPP).

Before I go on, I gotta tell you about something pretty slick. Once I signed up for the OBiTALK account, my OBi simply connected out to the Internet and told the OBiTALK service my OBi was online. There was zero configuration. It just worked. How frickin' often does that happen? Did I mention this thing was just fifty bucks?

The following image shows the OBiTALK configuration screen. Most of what's on this screen was automatically generated:

What you're going to want to do, in order to configure Google Voice, is click on the Service Provider 1 service at the bottom of the form. You'll see this form:

I want you to pay special attention to those fields with the red arrows. Those fields are your Google Voice login and your Google Voice password. This is why, all the way back in an early article of this series, I told you to create a new account used solely for your Google Voice number.

Obihai seems like a fine company, but I didn't want them having full access to my Gmail account or password. Now that you've filled in these fields, you're almost ready.

Next, switch back over to Google Voice and make sure Google Chat is enabled:

OBi uses the Google Chat interface to pass calls along to you. That's where the XMPP interface comes in. This is also where I started having problems with both the Obi and Ooma solution, because the enabled setting on the Chat checkbox in Google Voice would occasionally turn off for both my wife's Google Voice account and mine.

At this point, you should be able to receive Google Voice calls on your old-school phone. You will not, however, be able to make any calls.

As it turns out, there's a big pile of fine print on the OBiTALK configuration screen under the Gmail username and Gmail password settings. The most important notation in that text is their admonishment not to use the OBi device for emergencies. 9-1-1 won't work.

The second useful piece of information is that you're going to have to make at least one outgoing phone call directly from your Gmail account. You do this by clicking the"Call phone" button on the lower left side of your Gmail interface. Google may insist you install a plug-in, but I've found it's not at all intrusive.

Once you've made your first call via Gmail (and you don't even have to talk, so don't worry about a microphone), you don't ever have to do it again. From that point on, pick up your telephone handset, dial a number, and you're making a call. The fact that the OBi' sends that call over the Internet, through Google Voice, and back out through a phone line somewhere else is hidden from view. It just works.

Some final notes

We've found that there's sometimes a minor glitch that seems to clip off the first syllable of conversation. We don't know if that's the fault of the OBi, Google Voice, or the Link-to-Cell, the device I'll be talking about in our next installment. 

The sound quality and reliability of the Obi110 eventually got to us, and we moved away to the Ooma solution I describe in the next article. Obihai did send me an updated box (the Obi202), but by that time, I'd moved onto other phone solutions and didn't want to upset what was sort of working on a new test.

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DIY-IT Project Guide

Generally, voice quality was reasonably, but unreliable. Initially I didn't have too many complaints, but over time my wife expressed her measurable dissatisfaction with the solution.

Back in 2011, I wrote, "There is some risk, because this entire solution requires the OBiTALK service to remain running." As we're seeing now, that was prescient, because the critical XMPP interface portion of the Obihai solution is going away in May 2014.

The OBi device supports many more services beyond Google Voice. The OBi device, itself, can act as a VOIP gateway for two different services. So, if you want, you could connect a different service to the second service slot. When making a call on the second service, you'd simply have to prefix the number you're dialing with a short code.

So there you go. Cheap VoIP for fifty bucks, no monthly fee. It's enough to make any cheapskate grin with joy. And even though I moved off of it, I still recommend it to anyone who wants a cheap VoIP solution and is willing to put up with a few glitches.

Next in our series: Taking Google Voice to the extreme with Ooma

By the way, 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: Unified Comms, Apps, Google, Mobility, Telcos

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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Talkback

66 comments
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  • RE: Google Voice: a cheapskate's guide to cheap VOIP

    David, what a great series! I was looking for this information on and off over the past couple of years, and nothing was pulled together as well or completely.
    WmTConqror
    • RE: Google Voice: a cheapskate's guide to cheap VOIP

      Can the GoPhone still be used as a portable (old home phone number) after the transition to GV? Understood there would be a fee or usage charge. Also, could the Obi device be used with the fax machine?
      AK_Dragonfly
  • RE: Google Voice: a cheapskate's guide to cheap VOIP

    as a true cheapskate what I want is a way to use my google voice number to make internet calls over my cell phone and not use up my minutes. I'm happy with the magic jack at $20 a year and it easily travels with me wherever I go.
    REDPINXC
    • RE: Google Voice: a cheapskate's guide to cheap VOIP

      @REDPINXC

      If you have an android phone...

      Go into either Amazon app store or the Android Market Place. Purchase Groove IP, amazon has it on sale for 1.99, andorid market has it for about 4.99. Android Market does get updates faster but either way works.

      Log into your google voice account with your google voice number. Now, you can place calls using Groove IP without having a monthly fee. Groove IP uses cellular or wifi signal to make the calls, so it doesn't waste your minutes.

      Bonus: If you are a sprint customer, you can have it all on one line. It's pretty slick, considering that when I am in areas of no cell signal (basement) I still receive/take phone calls on my phone via wifi. The app runs in the background, so you're always ready to take the call. I've had it setup for about a week without any issues. The app even has settings to fix/tweak the audio settings.
      backwerds
      • Google is discontinuing protocol for Groove IP as of May 15, 2014

        From what I have read that Google is no longer going to allow 3rd party devices to use their services starting May 15,2014 they are not supporting the protocol that Groove IP uses and OBi110. Along with other hardware devices and software use.. :(
        rob781
    • RE: Google Voice: a cheapskate's guide to cheap VOIP

      @REDPINXC If you have an iPhone check out Talkatone. It accesses Google Voice without using cell minutes.
      APH3
    • RE: Google Voice: a cheapskate's guide to cheap VOIP

      @REDPINXC

      I just upgraded to Magic Jack +. It's $30 a year instead of $20, but the device no longer needs to be plugged into a computer to work. Not having to worry about a Microsoft update temporarilty killing my landline is well worth the additional $10.00 per year!
      dsf3g
      • SHILL!

        I know this comment above is from a Magic Jack Shill because Magic Jack DOES NOT cost "$20 per year." It costs $20 just to port your number over. Then when you find out it doesn't work and have to spend 2+ hours with a script-reading non-tech Indian, you have to spend $30 JUST TO GET YOUR NUMBER BACK! Complete scam that does not work. Don't believe me? Go to Amazon and see the HORRIBLE REVIEWS!
        NickyCee
    • This comment is from a SHILL!

      I know this comment above is from a Magic Jack Shill because Magic Jack DOES NOT cost "$20 per year." It costs $20 just to port your number over. Then when you find out it doesn't work and have to spend 2+ hours with a script-reading non-tech Indian, you have to spend $30 JUST TO GET YOUR NUMBER BACK! Complete scam that does not work. Don't believe me? Go to Amazon and see the HORRIBLE REVIEWS!
      NickyCee
    • I HAVE 3 GOOGLE VOICE NUMBERS...

      RIGHT KNOW I`M IN BRAZIL AND I USE THE FREE ANDROID SMARTPHONE APP: GROOVE IP LITE,
      I CAN MAKE ANY CALLS TO THE US,CANADA AND IF ADD CREDITS I CAN CALL ANY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD.SO IF YOU GOT A INTERNET CONNECTION,3G OR WIFI OR A COMPUTER WITH A INTERNET CONNECTION YOU CAN MAKE AND RECEIVE CALL AND SMS TO ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD FOR FREE.IF YOU USE A ANDROID SMARTPHONE OR TABLETE YOU CAN INSTALL THE FREE APP.NO IF HAVE A LAPTOP OR A COMPUTER YOU JUST HAVE TO LOG IN TO GMAIL AND INSTALL THE GOOGLE VOICE PLUG IN.IT WORKS IN ANY BROWSER,IN WINDOWS,MAC,LINUX.
      AND THE CALL QUALITY IS CRISTAL CLEAR.
      BrazilMan2014gv
      • I CAN MAKE AND RECEIVE CALLS

        AND YOU CAN HAVE IT RING IN MULTIPLES DEVICES IN THE SAME TIME.JUST LIKE SKYPE.
        BrazilMan2014gv
      • Dude, what's with the caps lock

        You post all over these forums with your caps lock on. STOP SCREAMING AT US!!!!
        Rann Xeroxx
        • what's the problem?????

          as if speaking to someone and they start shouting, walk away. If you are alergic to caps, look away and don't look back
          Charles_B
  • RE: Google Voice: a cheapskate's guide to cheap VOIP

    Know what? I just switched to Anveo last month from CallCentric as Anveo has support for sending/receiving SMS, but that's 4.4 cents to send/receive in the US and I did not look at the rates before I port my phone number, which costs me non-refundable $30 to do so. Better luck next time, but then Google Voice is not a VoIP provider, right? I have my phone number registered in e164.org (ENUM) and it dials my SIP URI, which connects to my Asterisk server and it dials my VoIP phone. ENUM is nice, considering that if someone's VoIP provider supports ENUM look-up (e164.org) and their VoIP phone supports HD Voice (G722) as mine does (Yealink SIP-T22P through Asterisk), the plain old telephone network can be bypassed.<br><br>For those who are wondering on what's so great about HD Voice (or G722, for that matter), find a hardware phone that supports HD Voice (or similar naming) or use Ekiga for Windows/Linux which supports G722 and dial this:<br><br>sip:wbdemo@conf.zipdx.com<br><br>Press the # key to switch to wideband.<br><br>Bear in mind that I doubt the plain old standard telephone supports high definition sound with a frequency response of 50Hz to 7kHz.<br><br>Oh, if you have just plain Asterisk, put this in your extensions.conf in /etc/asterisk/. That goes in your internal context:<br><br><code>exten => 47223366,1,dial(SIP/wbdemo@conf.zipdx.com)</code>
    Grayson Peddie
    • IF ARE IN THE US...

      JUST SIGN UP TO FREE GOOGLE VOICE SERVICE.GET A NUMBER ANYWHERE IN THE US.
      THEN LOAD THE FREE SMART PHONE APP: GROOVE IP LITE,THEN ENTER YOUR GMAIL ACCOUNT AND PASSWORD.THEM YOU FIXED NUMBER GO EVERYWHERE.MAKE,RECEIVE PHONE CALLS AND SMS.
      BrazilMan2014gv
  • Ooma with GV is free, not $10/mo

    Sure you can login to ooma & pay for services, but Google Voice works free simply by pointing it at the OOMA number.
    flapinux
    • RE: Google Voice: a cheapskate's guide to cheap VOIP

      @flapinux But can you then pick up your handset and dial out via Google Voice without paying?
      Force
      • RE: Google Voice: a cheapskate's guide to cheap VOIP

        @Force

        If you have an android phone...

        Go into either Amazon app store or the Android Market Place. Purchase Groove IP, amazon has it on sale for 1.99, andorid market has it for about 4.99. Android Market does get updates faster but either way works.

        Log into your google voice account with your google voice number. Now, you can place calls using Groove IP without having a monthly fee. Groove IP uses cellular or wifi signal to make the calls, so it doesn't waste your minutes.

        Bonus: If you are a sprint customer, you can have it all on one line. It's pretty slick, considering that when I am in areas of no cell signal (basement) I still receive/take phone calls on my phone via wifi. The app runs in the background, so you're always ready to take the call. I've had it setup for about a week without any issues. The app even has settings to fix/tweak the audio settings.
        backwerds
  • RE: Google Voice: a cheapskate's guide to cheap VOIP

    Having recently acquired and implemented an OBI110 on Google Voice, I think it's worth mentioning that it also supports other VOIP services. I use voip.ms as a second service and although it's usage based the cost is quite reasonable and they offer number porting and other services that Google Voice doesn't. Google Voice is my primary connection because I can make free calls to the USA and Canada (at least through 2011) but I can access my voip.ms service as a backup simply by dialing **2 in front of my number. The OBI110 is truly a slick device and the OBI100 is a mouse sized version without the RJ11 jack for a PSTN connection which would be great for traveling.

    Thanks for your articles. I already finished my setup but I'm sure lots of people will benefit from this information.
    rstucke@...
  • RE: Google Voice: a cheapskate's guide to cheap VOIP

    Gee I made it even more simple!1 I just use the Call Phone feature in Gmail. I can all over the USA and Canada. I can talk as long as I want for FREE. Plus I found out the folks in Austrialia can also call the USA for FREE. KISS...as they say..Keep It Simple Sam..or put whatever word you want to replace the last word.
    antiqham@...