My switch to Google Voice

I've been following the wireless industry for the past 5 years. After all,  as an IT consultant, my clients often have questions about wireless technology. I was a Cingular customer (remember them?) when they were bought by AT&T. After AT&T, I moved over to Sprint. I was a relatively happy Sprint customer until their WiMax technology turned out to be the loser in the 4G arena. A move from the Chicago area to a small town 60 miles west of St. Louis meant the end of my Sprint days. Sprint's coverage here was abysmal. From Sprint, I went to Straight Talk. For an MVNO, their service was pretty good. Their Customer Service (like most MVNOs) was lacking, but that's a big reason why the rates are so cheap. I've been a fan of what T-Mobile has been doing for the past 2 years, so I thought I would give T-Mobile a try. I like to support businesses that are doing things right, so even though my home office barely gets a signal, I put my money where my mouth is.

I knew T-Mobile offered an in-home signal booster (CellSpot), but what I didn't realize is that it's useless unless you have WiFi calling. When you are self employed you truly rely on your cell phone...for everything. The shiny new Nexus 6 I got from T-Mobile is supposed to support WiFi calling in a later update, but for now it's a paper weight. (Yes, I know I could return the phone and and walk away with no penalties due to the lack of coverage, but like I said above I really wanted to support T-Mobile)

Enter Google Hangouts.

I knew Google Hangouts was capable of making WiFi calls, but until now I had no need for it. Now that I had a need for it, it was time to get to work. I called someone I knew via Google Hangouts on my Nexus 6. It worked! No cell signal, but the call when through and it sounded great. Only one problem - my call came up as unknown. That's a major problem for a business.

Enter Google Voice.

I spent the next day searching for a way to make my number show up during a Google Hangouts call. The only way I could find that would reliably make my number show up was porting my existing number to Google Voice. There a few posts out there about getting started with Google Voice, but I did run into a few small issues. The point of this post is to cover my experiences and help you avoid any potential pitfalls.

  1. Porting your mobile number to Google Voice ends your current cell carrier contract. If you are under a contract, contact your carrier first before you do anything else. If you are thinking about switching carriers, now would be a great time to do so. Since I was a new T-Mobile customer (with no contract) for only a few days, I didn't know what to expect.  Unfortunately for me, I didn't call T-Mobile first. If I had, I would have learned that my cell number and my T-Mobile account number are merged together in their system. I figured it was just a matter of opening a new line on T-Mobile and transferring the phone to it. Turns out, it's not that easy. I started the process of porting my number to Google Voice and then called T-Mobile. The Representative informed me that I'd be getting a bill for the Nexus 6. I explained that I didn't realize that I couldn't just get a new line added to the account. The representative suggested that I go out and get a new SIM card and call them back after the port process was complete. I ended up having to talk to three different departments, but the end result was a new phone number and avoiding having to immediately pay off the new Nexus 6. 
  2. The porting process took about 24 hours. Google cautions that it can take longer, but since Google Voice has been around for years, I believe they have the process down.  There's really no good time to have not have cellular service, so I picked the end of the week. That way if it took multiple days, it would hopefully be done by Monday.
  3. When you start the port process you have to have current cell service - Google calls you to verify ownership of the number. So don't cancel your current cellular service yet!
  4. When the port process is complete, you'll get an email from Google.
  5. After the port process, before you can make cellular calls via Google Voice, you have to get a new cellular number & service from a carrier. It can be the same carrier you had or a new carrier.  You add that new working cell number to your Google Voice account as a forwarding number.   
  6. I'm self-employed. All of my customers have my phone number. I couldn't afford to lose any business because my number changed. That's why making my existing phone number my Google Voice number was so important. 
  7. Even more important, down the road if I ever change cellular carriers, it doesn't matter what phone number they give me - it will be added to my Google Voice account as a forwarding number. This should be the last time I ever have to port my number.
  8. If your cell number is not that important to you, you can always open a Google Voice account and request a Google Voice number from Google. You'd add your current number from your cellular carrier as a forwarding number to your Google Voice account. 
  9. If you are an Android user, give Google Hangouts a try. It's been a great experience so far. I use Google Hangouts to make calls and send text messages. 
  10. If you want to make WiFi calls and send text messages via your PC, install the Google Hangouts Chrome extension. You can get it here: https://www.google.com/hangouts/ - Note that this also applies to Chromebooks. Also, get a good head set. Thankfully, I have one and after using it for a week I'll be taking all of my office calls that way. I'm using a Sennhieser headset. 
  11. If you want to have a good experience making WiFi calls, make sure you have a good WiFi network. The better the network, the better the experience.
  12. While I'd rather not use my Android tablet to make calls, I know I can if I have to thanks to the Google Hangouts Dialer app.

All in all, I'd have to say I'm very pleased with Google Voice. I'm definitely glad I switched. Do you have a question, or comments? Leave them in comments below.