Google Voice: How to consolidate your virtual phone numbers

Google Voice: How to consolidate your virtual phone numbers

Summary: Google Voice doesn't normally allow more than one Google Voice number to ring through to a single mobile phone. This article shows you some ways around that limitation.

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

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.

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. We are also aware of the rumors that Google may end-of-life Google Voice or migrate its functionality more fully into Hangouts and, if that happens, we'll update this series with all your best options.

This article is a continuation of our Google Voice series. Up until now, we've talked mainly about using Google Voice as an individual. In this article and those that follow, we'll begin our look at Google Voice for Small Business, and help you and your business get the most out of integrating some of Google Voice's more interesting features into your daily work environment.

In this article, we'll start with some of the surprising limitations Google Voice imposes when you want to manage multiple phone numbers, and some possible tricks for getting around the problem.

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.

Some background

As I described at the beginning of this series, my wife and I moved to a new home back in 2011. At that time, we decided to "rescue" our long-valued landline phone numbers, one of which was the "family" number and one of which was my office number (I work from home).

We chose Google Voice because we liked the idea of having numbers independent of the physical location, and because we spent about four months commuting between homes (and never knowing when either of us would be in either house), it made sense to have our phone numbers reach us anywhere.

Obviously, we could give out our cell phone numbers, but we had lots of people who knew and regularly contacted us on our landlines and wanted to keep all that running.

When we set up Google Voice, we decided the "family" number would ring to her cell phone (since she was the one who usually talked to family members, friends, and home-renovation contractors). We decided the "work" number would ring to my cell phone since I mostly talk to the work-related contacts.

We also wanted to be able to answer either phone when we were both at home. I'll talk more about that in a later article.

So far, Google Voice could work with us. But then a complication arose. I have a second "work" number. I'm the executive director for a nonprofit, and that organization has a separate number.

For the last few years, I've had that number running through Google Voice. I set it to ring on through to the "work" landline, so I could answer it through my normal office phone, saving me from having to have a whole separate set of wiring in the home office.

But when I moved my office landline to Google Voice, I discovered a problem. Google Voice will not forward one Google Voice number to another. I could no longer get both the nonprofit calls and my work calls on the same line.

Okay, fine, I thought. I'll forward the nonprofit phone directly to my cell phone. No joy. Google Voice will only allow you to link one cell phone number to one Google Voice number, in a strict one-for-one correspondence. No exceptions.

So there's my problem statement. How could I link two separate Google Voice numbers to one cell phone?

Although nothing I found was perfect, there are a few hacky ways to make it work. I'll show yout those, and then I'll tell you what I've been doing for the past few months and why I like it.

Just do voice mail

The easiest way to consolidate phones is to not consolidate phones. In my case, my work phone number could ring through to my mobile phone, but the nonprofit phone wouldn't. Google Voice would simply take a message and email me.

This, as it turns out, is the choice I used for quite a while.. Since I obsessively check email (I've checked it four times since I started writing this article...okay, five times), there wasn't too much of a delay when someone called the nonprofit, left me a message, and I called back. Since the nonprofit line doesn't get an inordinate number of calls, that was an easy way to go.

The only problem was I'd sometimes miss calls that were time-urgent, like when some event happened somewhere in the world and mainstream media outlets (often the BBC or CNN) wanted some instant commentary and analysis. If the call went to voicemail, it was often difficult to get back to these very, very busy producers on a breaking news day.

I wanted to make sure I got calls when a caller called me on that second line. That brings us to the second choice.

Next up: workable alternatives...

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, 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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17 comments
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  • Another solution

    You can link any number of Google Voice numbers to a land line. The difference is that the land line does not receive text. To do this, classify your cell phone number as a home or work landline in each of your accounts. Voila! Multiple Google Voice numbers ring through to your cell phone.
    Randomly
    • RE: Google Voice: how to consolidate your virtual phone numbers

      @Randomly
      You used to be able to link two GV #'s to the same landline. It's now down to one unless something changed in the past couple of weeks:(
      mschauber
  • Another Idea

    Link both Google Voice accounts to your cell phone. Just tell Google that they are office phones. You will have to go to Google Voice to send and receive text messages, but if you just want to answer the phone, this works well.
    gdbry
    • RE: Google Voice: how to consolidate your virtual phone numbers

      @gdbry@... The only downside is you lose the ability to get texts via either account.
      David Gewirtz
  • RE: Google Voice: how to consolidate your virtual phone numbers

    I've never liked the added delay with Google Voice. Cell to Cell is bad enough, Cell to GV to Cell is worse. I don't know about now but before GV couldn't do MMS which is another deal breaker.
    trx_1
  • Latency

    Did you try any of these? The problem is that each forward makes the already-laggy GV calls even laggier.
    m0o0o0o0o
  • Don't bank on GV if you travel outside of US

    The author might add a new TBD, what happens to GV when you cross the US borders. I think he will find that great chunks of function stop. I'm not talking about a non-US subscriber, I'm talking about a US subscriber who goes on vacation to Europe. From experience.
    MrBeck
  • Different GV Apps to each line

    I have two different GV apps that are connected to each line. GV Connect for one line and GV Mobile + for another. I have both lines on "Do Not Disturb", so I don't know all of the ins and outs of making and receiving phone calls. Both apps are on my iPhone, don't know if they exist for anything else.
    chrisadams1
    • Can you comment on this solution now, after using it for a while?

      @chrisadams: I'm trying to get two different GV #'s to my iPhone, but didn't like the other solutions offered until I read yours'. I have multiple companies with multiple #'s and all of them need to be separate from my native iPhone #. Are you still using this method, and can you answer these questions regarding its use?

      - What # shows up on caller id's during outgoing and incoming calls? It's important to me that each GV # shows up on outgoing, and that all incoming #'s are id'd correctly.
      - Can you set up separate voicemail greetings for each GV # (still all separate from your native iPhone #)?
      - How is the sound and performance?
      - Are you still using GV's interface on the computer with multiple Google accounts to keep track of emails, texts and vm's, etc?

      Thanks in advance, your comments (& solution) are greatly appreciated.
      steelbreeze10
  • RE: Google Voice: how to consolidate your virtual phone numbers

    David, just discovered your articles on GV this morning, great reading! But, last night, I was able to add a second GV number to my iphone without any hitches. GV did warn me of a pre-existing account with this mobile number, but once I can authorization, it went through with ease. You may have discovered this already.

    Again, thanks for the informative articles.
    RealEstateStan
    • RE: Google Voice: how to consolidate your virtual phone numbers

      @RealEstateStan

      but, does it still ring the same phone for both numbers?
      mgt46
  • RE: Google Voice: how to consolidate your virtual phone numbers

    why wouldn't the callers caller ID show when going thru magictalk? does magictalk not pass the original callers CID information? that is strange, as that is not usually how call forwarding works - usually you get the number of the person calling, not the number that the call was forwarded thru...

    as for texts, send the texts to your email, and set up your email account on your phone and you will still get your texts on your phone, just as email notifications - or you can use a google voice app for your phone
    nyphonejacks
  • Yes, but how can you call someone back from your second GV number?

    Even i you receive an email notification from your second GV number after someone calls you, how do you call a person back with your second google voice number showing up on the persons caller ID?

    PJ
    beachboyboy
  • MagicJack is not a reliable solution.

    I tried MagicJack, however, I found they are not reliable. Certain phone numbers MagicJack can't dial to, their tech support confirmed to me this is true -- after many tries I finally could get hold of their tech support, but never be able to reach them again...... If someone has other solution, I'd like to hear from you. thanks!
    gwu888
  • Much more simple

    Just change the phone type from mobile to home or work. Google allows different voice numbers to connect to a single home phone or work phone. I can't access the app for both accounts on my phone but since I just have voicemails and texts go to email for the second account that works for me. This does not allow me to call them back from the appropriate number either but I can return calls with no caller ID instead.
    pixellz
  • Successfully using 3 phone numbers with magicjack and GV

    I have been battling the same situation as many of the others in htis thread. I have one number (basically unpublished) on my iPhone, a personal number that I give to all my friends and family, and a business number that I give out to work contacts. The personal number is a GV number, forwarded to my unpublished cell number and I use the GV app to return calls received on that line, so my caller ID shows up as the GV number, and the business number is a magicjack number that I forward to my iphone, and I use the MagicJack app for iPhone on that number, so again, the caller only sees the business number caller ID when I return a call.
    If I am initiating a call I have to remember which app to place the call from, but other than that the sytem seems to work well.
    With respect to SMS, for the GV number I am able to send and receive using the google voice number, however MagicJack doesn't support SMS so business contacts don't have the option of using SMS to contact me, but that's not a show stopper for me.
    The only caveat is, as another commenter pointed out, there are numbers (AC-Exchanges) that magicjack is unable to place calls to - something to do with antiquated equipment at small telco's according to the tech that I spoke with 18 months ago, but if you run into one of these it likely that callerID is not supported there anyway so using your cell number with calledID blocked is probably a viable option.
    In theory I guess you could add a fourth number (or more) using other VOIP services with apps that allow you to make outgoing calls from your iphone, such as skype, although these are most likely more expensive than magicjack.
    brit953
  • It is possible to receive TXTs

    I have two number forwarding to my cell currently and both numbers also forward TXTs.
    What I did was forwarded both numbers to my cell as HOME numbers. Then I switched them both to CELL numbers. When google warned about only being able to use a cell with one account, instead of hitting reclaim, I hit cancel. Both accounts show my cell as a cell with full forwarding.
    TaoTeShaun