Where Has Google Voice Gone?
Google Voice isn’t going away, as some headlines suggest. Instead, it’s going everywhere. If you're not up to speed on this nifty service that lets you make free phone calls, read on...
Google Voice Gets Some Love
Google is finally devoting some development resources to its Google Voice service. That’s good news for the many Google Voice fans who have struggled to get it working. It still doesn’t work reliably or intuitively, but progress is evident.
The latest changes suggest that Google Voice is being assimilated into Google Hangouts, the instant-messaging and video chat platform launched as part of Google Plus in May, 2013. You don’t need a Google Plus account to use Google Hangouts.
There are several ways to enable Google Hangouts. On a desktop or laptop computer with Internet Explorer or Firefox, you can find Hangouts via Google Plus or GMail. If you're running the Chrome browser, download the Hangouts extension. Hangouts is also available on your Android or iOS (iPhone/iPad/iPod) mobile devices.
Hangouts in the Google Chrome Browser
If you choose to use Hangouts via the desktop Chrome browser extension, after installing Google Hangouts you will see a green, comic-book style “quote bubble” in the upper-right corner of the browser frame. Click on it to open the Hangouts window.
Then click on “New Hangout” (even though it doesn't look clickable). Click on the phone handset icon that appears to the right of the search box. Enter a name to search your Google Contacts, or enter a phone number to start dialing. Of course, you'll need a microphone if you want the other party to hear you.
No longer must you open Google GMail in another tab and then activate the Google Talk widget -- that’s a big improvement! But you'll still need to visit the Google Voice page to see your call history, and to configure how calls are made and/or answered.
Hangouts in Gmail
To get Google Hangouts on your GMail page, click on your profile picture in the chat section (lower-left corner). “Try the new Hangouts” will be the first option at the top of the resulting pop-up window; click it. After the page refreshes, click on the magnifying-glass icon to the right of your profile picture to open the “new Hangout” window described above.
Clicking on your profile picture or name opens a Hangouts settings menu. “Ring on incoming phone calls” to your Google Voice phone number is a good option to checkmark.
Hangouts in Google Plus
If you're already a Google Plus user, you'll find Hangouts on the right side of the Google Plus window. Click on “New Hangout” then click the phone icon to make a call. You can access the Hangouts settings menu by clicking the little grey triangle to the right of "New Hangout."
Not Ready for Prime Time?
I do love the fact that I can forward my landline to Google Voice, and instruct it to ring my cell phone on incoming calls. I can block unwanted callers with a few clicks, and Google even keeps a list of nuisance numbers that automatically get sent to a Spam folder.
And even though the text transcriptions of my voicemails are sometimes hilariously mangled, for the most part they are accurate enough to relay the gist of the message. I can always play the audio version of the voicemail message when needed.
The Google Hangouts extension seems a bit wonky. Occasionally, I get a “video call error” screen even though I am not trying to launch a video call. A second attempt to make a simple voice call works, usually. Once in a while, incoming calls are not forwarded to my cell phone.
The phone number displayed to the people you call or text is still a source of confusion for many Google Voice users. Sometimes it’s your Google Voice number; sometimes it’s your physical phone’s number; and sometimes it’s a mystery number in the 406 Area Code, somewhere in Montana.
To always display your Google Voice number to the people you call or text, you have to “integrate” Google Voice with your cellular phone service carrier. That is possible only if your cellular phone service is billed to an individual. You are out of luck if your phone service is provided by your employer, billed to your own company, or paid for by the government (military or civil service employees, and Lifeline service for the poor).
Some suspect that’s so the NSA can trace Google Voice calls and messages to the senders’ home addresses. Google says it is working on eliminating this constraint, but only for government-paid phone service accounts. That fits the NSA theory because the government would know where you live if it was paying your phone bill. I'm not sure that really explains it, though. If the NSA wants to know where I live or who I'm calling, they can just ask Edward Snowden, right?
I do find it disappointing that Google is complicating things by rolling (parts of) Google Voice into Hangouts, and giving new names to things that used to make perfect sense. When I want to place or answer a phone call, I'm not "hanging out" with a friend -- I'm making a phone call!
But alas, these are not my decision to make. And Google Voice is still free, so maybe I shouldn't complain. Are you using Google Voice, or just hanging out in cyberspace? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 31 Jul 2014
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Where Has Google Voice Gone? (Posted: 31 Jul 2014)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved