All projects: DIY-IT Project Guide
This project: The Ultimate Google Voice How-to Guide (2014 Edition)
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.
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