I can’t believe it! It was more than 20 years ago that I bought my first mobile phone. I remember it like it was yesterday—I had just moved to Southern California (Fullerton to be exact) to go to college and I went to Circuit City and picked out the Nokia 5180. It was amazing! The phone was so clunky that you couldn’t put it in your pocket, so I had to buy a belt clip. How cool was that?
Fast forward to today, I have probably had close to a dozen phones over that span of time, but the one thing that remained was my mobile number. Not only has the 714 area code become part of my identity, having lived in “The OC” for more than 15 years, but all of my friends and family know that number. So why would I change it when I moved to Northern California? I didn’t!
A phone number really isn’t tied to a geographic location anymore thanks to the mobile phone. It does, however, get a bit challenging in certain situations trying to get a response from a local service person when they see an area code they may not be familiar with. So, needless to say I contemplated adding another line to my cell phone plan—that is until I discovered Google Voice.
Google Voice allows you the ability to acquire a local phone number without the need for a paid phone plan. Simply create or sign in to a Google account and you are on your way.
Just because it’s free don’t think that it doesn’t have a lot of features. According to the website, you can do basically everything you can do with your traditional mobile phone number. The first and obvious feature is the ability to dial out and receive phone calls.
Personally, this is my biggest challenge with the app as I have trouble answering calls on my cell phone. When I try to dial out, the app dials a different number than what I typed. My working theory is that it relates to the fact that I have an iPhone and not an Android, but I’m still troubleshooting this issue.
The calls work perfectly when using my computer, both incoming and outgoing. Voicemails also work perfectly on my computer and through the app on my mobile phone. Google Voice transcribes your voicemails as well so you can read through them if you aren’t able to listen to them at the moment.
There are some features I turned off, like call screening, which alerts the caller that the number is a Google Voice number. I also recorded my own voicemail greeting to hide the fact that it is a Google Voice number.
Another key feature is messaging. Since many things are done via texting these days, you can send and receive text messages through your new Google Voice number. The recipient of the message has no idea that the number is a Google Voice number either. One thing I have learned is to not forward messages to my phone—it shows up as a random number that is not related to my Google Voice account.
The best part of it all is Google Voice is free if it is for personal use. All you have to do is go to voice.google.com.
Do I recommend it as a seamless product? Unfortunately, the answer is no, but for those instances when your area code makes a difference, Google Voice is a great option.
Submit Your Ideas
If you have ideas you want to share about new programs or features you are using, send them to email@example.com.
Russell Lahodny is vice president of W.A.C.E. and vice president of local chamber relations at the California Chamber.