Sometimes even thousands of included minutes on your cell phone plan aren’t enough for life’s unexpected emergencies, like partner or spousal meltdowns, being placed on hold when calling a utility like the cable company, or another bureaucratic organization with a carefree approach to your time. Despite the joys of canned music, particularly Asian disco music, it isn’t worth the overages slapped on by the cell provider. However, there is an alternative, and that’s to sign up for one of the discounted Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) services.
Until recently VOIP services on the cheap were complicated to setup because they used a technology called SIP that involved you manually configuring an adapter with server IP addresses, and so on. Skype, with its Skype-to-Skype solution was another alternative, but didn’t provide truly free calling to a landline or mobile. Recently Google, through the purchase of longtime SIP provider Gizmo, has thrown a new computer-based calling solution into the mix that allows you to make calls in the USA for free.
1. Sign up
Sign up for a Google account if you haven’t already got one. Any Google account will do, including the kind you use for Google mail, like GMail. Sign up for Google Voice at the GV website (see below.) During the GV signup process you will choose a new number that can match or come close to your current area code. This number will be your master number that you can hand out to friends and associates to call.
2. Initial Setup
Access the GV web-based interface through the link provided during the signup process. Then click on the cog wheel to the right of the screen and choose “Settings.” From the “Phones” tab, choose the options, and edit the phones that you want to ring when someone calls your GV number. For example, you can set your GV number to call your cell phone and landline at the same time. You can further integrate the voicemail functionality with a Sprint phone if you have one. Click through the tabs to see the available options.
3. Make a call
Click on the web-browser based red button labeled “Call” to make a call. A pop-up dialog box will appear that will let you enter a number to call in the first text box. The second text box will let you enter the option you want to use to make the call. For example, you can connect with your landline or cell phone if you’ve configured them in the tabs. The Google Voice application will make the call and then ring your landline or cell phone. Answer your cell phone and the call will connect. Alternatively, you can connect with your computer, right in the browser. Just download the Google Talk browser plug in.
Even though GV calls are free in the US, if you make the connection with your cell phone–even one tightly integrated like Sprint’s, the GV call minutes will count towards your plan minutes.
Use the “Billing” tab in the GV web-based interface to add credit. You’ll need credit for the cheap international calls.