Google Voice: The ultimate iPhone how-to

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.


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.

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.

More great project ideas

DIY-IT Project Guide

DIY-IT Project Guide

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

Topics: Google, iPhone, Mobility, Telcos


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.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Google Voice: the ultimate iPhone how-to

    I have used the GV iPhone app since the day other was released(and black swan before that), and feel that its overly difficult for all but the most dedicated user. In addition to what you already docuy y mented, it's not possible to voice dial, or place handsfree outgoing calls from your car. There are a handful of other issues that make it a non-starter for most ppl. I struggle through the inconveniences, because I've been using my Grand Central # for years.
    • RE: Google Voice: the ultimate iPhone how-to

      @dwoodeson Pouring water out of a boot with instructions on the heel is too difficult for most iPhone users, so I'm really not all that surprized.

      Oh and advanced features like voice dial or hands free calls work flawlessly on Android devices. Maybe if you want a Google service, you should think about using their operating system. It's not really as hard as most iPhone users make it out to be. I understand it has more than two functions so it may be a challenge for a while but I promise, it won't be painfully difficult to learn.
      • really

        for most iphone users eh? you have some kind of research on that? some statistics somewhere? anything with substance? or are we supposed to believe you because you were able to type it out?
        my gawd. do you people never tire? these platform wars are childish and boring.
        at least you'll get sympathy posting in this article. as long as you're bashing apple users you're like kin to gewirtz. doesn't matter that you're doing exactly what he accuses all apple users (yes, every single one of them) of doing. he'll embrace you.
      • RE: Google Voice: the ultimate iPhone how-to

        @blueskip AMEN! But to take it to the next step, the iOS is a great OS as is Android. Lets be fair now, with either platform there are those who will struggle ... they usually have problems operating a light switch. Whatever the platform it is up to us to help those who struggle.
      • RE: Google Voice: the ultimate iPhone how-to

        @blueskip You completely invalidated any argument you may have had with your first sentence So I did not bother to read any further in your post. Then again that is exactly the sort of thing I'd expect from a die hard frothing at the mouth poo flinging fandroid.
      • Notification

        I tried using GV on the iphone - the moment I realized that you couldn't change the default notification tone, I went back to Android. I can deal with no 3rd party keyboards, not being able to change default apps, etc, but this was a deal-breaker.
    • I agree

      Though i use it, simple way to tell is look at the ratings the app got.

      And anyway how many article we need to see about google voice.
  • btw

    gewitz - good articles.
  • RE: Google Voice: the ultimate iPhone how-to

    Shame it's not available in the UK :(
    • Here, here!

      GV to Europe please, the world is not just North America -.-
  • RE: Google Voice: the ultimate iPhone how-to

    For those who are Obihai users, check out the Obion app on iPhone and Android. It connects you through WiFi to your Obi device and you place your calls from there. So if you're in the south of France but your hotel has WiFi, you can make domestic calls to US numbers.
  • GV for IOS?

    After reading the positive report on GV for IOS I went to the app store. I found that 528 users give the latest version 1.5 stars, so everyone essentially hates. 14,180 gave it avg of 3 stars over all versions, but more than 1/2 of those are 1 star. I'm gonna pass.
  • 3rd party versions on WP8 were great

    now I have a S4 and the real GV version, I prefer the 3rd party WP versions, having to open GV to see who texted you is lame.

    Still, being able to use my work provided S4 with my personal cell # for totally free is pretty damn sweet. saves $1200/year after taxes
  • GV app for IOS!

    Sorry, but the app is extremely lacking for the iPhone. Granted it probably works great for android devices, but your article is about the iPhone.
    As others have stated there is no voice calling you can't send pictures or videos in text. The overall use of the app is clunky and slow, I'm in a text chat with someone and when they send me a new text it pops up as a notification even though I'm already in the conversation. Or when I tap in the area to respond to someone I often accidently tap on the dialer or quick dial area instead of the reply box as it is right on top of the menu area. I'm not saying that this is all Google's fault, I know there is a lot of limitations on IOS side. But to say that this is a useful app on IOS is just not true.
  • Talkatone

    I do not believe Talkatone will interface with Google Voice accounts after the announced May 15, 2014 date. See their support site for details.
  • Google Voice may not show correct CallerID

    I do not have an iPhone, and never intend to. But I have used GV for quite awhile on my PC.

    It has been my experience that while the GV number is properly displayed for most outgoing calls, that is not always the case. Every once in awhile, someone will see a weird number on their CallerID when I call them.
  • Regret switching to Google Voice

    I made the mistake of porting my number to Google Voice only to find it rejects group texting, cannot receive (MMS) pictures via text, imessages and does not show the GV # when calling or texting
  • Picture Texts

    It is correct to say that you cannot get pictures via Google Voice. However, I do have a little work around for that. If you configure your Google Voice to also email your text messages to your account then when a picture comes via text it should show up in your Gmail inbox. I haven't tested this out in awhile so not sure if this still works but it did once upon a time (and may still).
  • Update on VoIP clients...

    Talkatone went their own way with VoIP, which is disappointing since their client really is the best one for Google Voice. I have one now called "Phone for Google Voice & GTalk", from a company called MoPlus. It does the job but it is quite annoying with ads and push messages asking you to buy in-app purchases.
  • Voicemail

    does anyone know how (or if it is even possible) to connect google voicemail for your google voice number? I'd like to keep either my carrier vm or a different vm for when folks are calling my cell phone number. I've seen comments that indicate this may be possible but have not found instructions anywhere. I'd appreciate any help.