November 24, 2015

Google Voice & The Landline For Life

It seems like every month I get a mailing from my internet provider telling me they can save me all this money on a landline.  I know I’ve told them on the phone more than unless they can beat free, their price is going to be too high.  A dozen or more mailing later, I've decided that their marketing department is perfectly ok with throwing money away, so I'm going to help others help them do just that for under $100.


Many moons ago, I signed up for a service called Grand Central.  It boasted that it was your phone number for life, regardless of whether you moved, or changed cellular carriers. (This was before number porting.) If you remember MCI One from years ago where a call to you would bounce between phones, this is very similar.  The difference is, all the phones ring at the same time.

In 2007, Google bought Grand Central and re-branded the service as Google voice.  You can customize your account in some very granular ways.  These are just a few of the options:

·         Individual voice message greetings for contacts or groups of contacts.
·         Easily block phone numbers, or restrict calls to only those in your contact list.
·         Update the phones you want to have your google voice ring on the fly.
·         Make and receive calls/send SMS messages through any web-enabled device.
·         Carrier integration with Sprint wireless.
·         Switch between devices on the fly.
·         Call recording.
·         Virtually unlimited SMS storage space.
·         Transcribed emails sent to your choice of text or email.
·        Google voice Android app integration.


So, how does this equal a land line for free?  I’m sure most of us have heard of the VOIP devices/services such as Magic Jack, Ooma, or Vonage.  They charge a monthly fee to use your high speed internet connection to give you the equivalent of a landline.  I’ve found a similar alternative that has no monthly fee when used with Google Voice. 

First, sign up for Google Voice.  Go to www.google.com/voice and click the "Get A Voice Number" link on the left.  You will see the below dialog box.  You can choose to get either a new number, or port your existing number to their service.


Once your account has been set up, it's time to talk hardware.  I purchased an Obihai VOIP adapter from Amazon years ago.  Mine is the Obi100.  I don’t need some of the features the other choices offer.  This is the Obi110, which is similar to mine.   Depending on the options you want or need, there are many boxes to choose from.  If you're just wanting voice capability, then the entry level unit will do.  but, if you need bluetooth, multi-line, or fax capability, there's a device to suit your needs.  They are all available on Amazon, as well as other online retailers.


Once I made the initial hardware purchase, I created an account on Obi’s ObiTalk portal.  I then configured my Obi account to pass my Google Voice calls seamlessly between services.  All incoming calls ring through on the landline and any other connected devices.  (If you have the google voice or hangouts app on your Android device, you can make and receive calls over wifi as well.)  All outgoing calls display the Google Voice number on the caller ID if that's the setting you've chosen.  

That's it.  That's all there it to it.  Go forth and make phone calls with no monthly charge!

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