I've noticed that there has been some confusion regarding Google Voice and how it works with your existing phone service. Most of us are new to Android and have not had a phone with the ability to integrate Google Voice services. I've done a bit of research on how Google Voice works and in how it works with your existing and data and minutes plan.
I thought I would write a simple FAQ regarding Google Voice, hopefully to clear up some misconceptions.
Update 11/18/09 - Information regarding Google Voice + SMS and making free calls using GV dialer.
1. What is Google Voice?
Google Voice is a free call forwarding, voicemail, and SMS service provided by Google. Google Voice is NOT currently a VoIP service. However, Google has recently acquired Gizmo5 which provides voip calling and receiving services. In the future Google Voice will most likely become a full featured voip service.
2. How do I sign up?
To join Google voice you need to receive an invite either from an existing member or join the waiting list. There is a thread on droidforums for invites located here: http://www.droidforums.net/forum/dro...gle-voice.html
To try to get an invite directly from Google Voice go here: https://services.google.com/fb/forms/googlevoiceinvite/ From my experience it can take anywhere between a few days to a week to get an invite. Google Voice is only available in the US. They are planning on offering international numbers in the future.
3. How does it work?
When you sign up, Google will allow you to pick a phone number to be your GVoice number. You can set that number to forward calls + SMS messages to different phones. When people call your Google number you can specify which devices should ring depending on the time of day, and/or by who is calling.
You can also use Google voice to make low cost international calls, and free calls to Canada. More detailed information for getting started with Google Voice and all its features can be found at their website located here: Getting Started - Google Voice Help
Here is a short video giving a brief explanation of what Google Voice is:
4. How do I get Google Voice on my Droid?
The official Google Voice app can be downloaded from the Android marketplace.
5. What can I do with the GVoice App?
The Google Voice app allows you to set your phone to make calls using your Google Voice number and to send and receive SMS messages. You can set when you would like for your droid to use Google Voice under Settings > Making Calls, in the GVoice app.
6. Does Google Voice use up the minutes on my plan?
Yes. Dialing out and receiving calls via Google Voice uses up your minutes exactly the same as if you aren't using Google Voice at all. When you dial with Google Voice you will notice at the top of the call screen a white notification box that says "Calling via Google Voice" followed by a telephone number. This number is an access number which then forwards your call to your intended destination. When viewing your billing and usage statement, this is the number that will appear as being dialed.
Furthermore this access number is considered out of Verizon's network. Verizon offers free mobile-to-mobile calling for all Verizon numbers. The access number that Google Voice dials is outside of this network. If you rely on free mobile-to-mobile, please be aware that those calls you make via Google Voice will no longer be free during peak hours.
When receiving calls via Google Voice the Caller ID will either be the actual caller's number or your Google Voice number. This setting can be adjusted when you log in to your Google Voice account at http://voice.google.com under Calls.
7. What about text messaging?
Text messages you send and receive via the Google Voice app are free. However, if you have your Google Voice account set to forward SMS messages to your Verizon mobile number, those SMS messages are treated the same as any other sms messages.
*The official Google Voice app only checks for SMS every 5 minutes, however, if you have actual SMS forwarding enabled from GV to your cell, it's instant. While this is kind of redundant, it removes the GV refresh-rate delay. You can then disable SMS notification in the messaging app, so you end up with a lot of 'hidden' and unread SMS, but if you don't use the Messaging app, that doesn't matter.
If you would like to conserve SMS usage, it is possible to have your SMS messages forwarded to your Gmail account. This can be done from the Google Voice website under Settings > Voicemail & SMS. This is a good workaround for the GVoice 5 minute refresh problem. GMail is pushed, so any SMS messages forwarded to your Gmail will be received instantly. Remember to disable SMS forwarding to your mobile if using this method.
8. How do I setup Google Voice to takeover my Verizon voicemail services?
You can setup Google Voice to serve as your voicemail service for your mobile phone even if people are not dialing your Google Voice number. You can set this up in your settings on the Google Voice website under Phones. Next to any applicable phones you will see a link to "Activate Google Voicemail on this Phone." Click that link and follow the directions. This service is free.
9. Can I put my Google Voice number or the Google access number on my Friends and Family list?
For applicable accounts Verizon provides a Friends and Family list where all incoming and outgoing calls to those numbers are free. You CAN put your Google Voice number on this list. The best way to make use of this feature is to set your Google Voice account to show your Google Voice number instead of the Caller's Number for Caller-ID. Friends and Family minutes are calculated based on Caller-ID information. If you have your FF setup in this way, any incoming calls via Google Voice are essentially free. If you are concerned about not knowing who is calling, Google Voice allows you to screen your calls so that whoever is calling will say who are they before they speak to you.
In addition as mentioned earlier, when dialing w/ Gvoice, your phone will dial an access center before connecting your call. The access number that your phone dials is determined by location, and unless you are moving between different areas will most likely be the same most of the time. You can put this access number on your Friends and Family list as well so that whenever you "Dial with Google" your calls are free. Be aware that the access number may not always be the same. The best thing to do is make calls with Google Voice and see if and how often there is any variation.
*10. Another way to make free calls with Friends and Family
For making free calls using the Friends and Family option, Evan Charlton's GV app will allow you to create a 'call back' call, it basically intercepts all outgoing calls and then behind the scenes, logs into GV, and has GV call your cell; when you answer, it calls the original number you dialed. If you have your Google # set to Friends & Family, this gives you another way to make free outgoing calls. The access # method may be a bit more streamlined when using your phone, however, access numbers do sometimes change, so this gives you a surefire way to make free outgoing calls every time. It also saves you from having to put 2 different numbers on your Friends and Family call list, instead of 1.
QR Code for GV:
If there is anything that is wrong with this FAQ or anything you think should be added, feel free to PM me. Hope this helps some people!
*Thanks to Modulus for this info