How Google Voice Works - The Complete Guide

Google Voice is perhaps the most cost-effective VoIP solution for personal or company use. Though it didn’t make our list of the best business VoIP phone services, we think it’s a smart choice for Google power users or folks who don’t mind a blurred line between business and personal calling. But, if you’re looking for a high-grade VoIP service that doesn’t rely on the Google suite (and is great for a wide array of businesses), our top overall pick is Nextiva.

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Best for Most

With industry-leading world-class customer support, 99.999% uptime reliability, unlimited online faxes, free phone numbers, an auto-attendant, video conferencing, call pops, and more, Nextiva is an all-in-one communications platform to keep you and your team connected. And it’s our top pick for most businesses.

As is an all-in-one business communications platform, it encompasses video conferencing, business SMS, online faxing, and a whole lot more. It’s a comprehensive VoIP solution for businesses of all sizes, including brand new startups to Fortune 500 companies. Nextiva’s reliability, feature-set, and price point make it our top pick, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone—particularly if you don’t need all of those bonus features.

If you’re nodding your head in agreement, Google Voice is an excellent lightweight VoIP alternative. Keep reading to learn more about it, who should use it, the infrastructure you need, how it works, and how to get started in the next 30 minutes.

Why You Should Use Google Voice

Many people are juggling multiple phones. Almost everyone has a cell phone number used for various things, but primarily for personal reasons.

Some people may have a second phone number dedicated solely to work-related communication. 

Others may have a landline in their office or at home.

And then there are a rare few that may also have a landline phone number at home for personal calls. Balancing and bouncing between all these different numbers and phones isn’t the simplest way to manage multiple numbers.

Google Voice introduces a new way to simplify.

With it, you can forward all of your numbers to one singular number, letting you answer calls from all your different phone numbers on the same device.

Google Voice is a favorite amongst small business owners and large companies.

It simplifies phone calls for everyone and brings everything into one place. 

You may feel like the last thing you want to do is get another phone number.

However, a Google Voice phone number may be the last number you ever need. This telephone service is perfect for merging multiple communication channels into one place. And that is just one of its many additional features.

Here is why you should stop carrying multiple phones and use this VoIP instead.

1. You Can Take and Make Calls from Gmail

If you have a Gmail account, even a free one, you can make calls to the U.S. and Canada straight from your inbox for free. The problem is that each time you call, you’re assigned a random phone number that the recipient won’t recognize—and most people straight up ignore calls from unknown numbers.

With Google Voice, you instantly resolve that issue. Once you’ve selected your Google Voice number, all of your outgoing Gmail calls will come from that number. That way, recipients can recognize when you’re calling and are more likely to pick up.

To sweeten the deal, you can also answer calls within Gmail and Google Hangouts, straight from your computer.

2. You Get Free Unlimited Texts

Free texting is included in the Google Voice service. That’s a great benefit if you’re like most people are prefer the speed and convenience of firing off a quick text message.

With the Google Voice app, you can text via the service from your phone. That can help you keep your professional texts, done through Google Voice, separate from your personal correspondence.

Plus, text from any platform and device when you need to. Access Google Voice from your web browser or even install its Chrome extension to get notifications and send and receive messages within that browser.

That leads to the extra benefit of reliable syncing across all platforms. Not only are all your messages kept up-to-date wherever you access them from, but if you need to reset your phone or get a new one, you won’t lose your text messages. You can always search the archive of your texts online to track down any information you may need.

3. You Can Forward All Your Calls To One Number

Your Google Voice number allows you to forward your calls to other numbers. This comes in handy when it comes time to get a new phone or switch cell phone carriers. All you have to do is get a new cell phone number and forward your Google Voice number to it, or forward it to your old existing phone number. 

Google also has the option for you to transfer your existing phone number to Google Voice, so you don’t need to share your Google Voice number with everyone. Though this feature comes at an added cost, it may be worth it for you, especially if it’s important that you keep your contact numbers separate for business and personal use.

4. Your Voicemails Are Transcribed

Not only does Google Voice come with voicemail, but it takes things one step further and uses its advanced speech recognition technology to transcribe your voicemail into text.

This is a great feature for those who need to determine whether a voicemail is important enough to leave a meeting for or for people who just hate listening to voicemails. Plus, if you’re getting tons of voicemails, you can scan them for important info just as easily as you could your emails.

5. You Can Listen To Voicemails As They’re Being Left

One neat feature about this telephone service is that you can listen to voicemails as someone is leaving them. That’s pretty unique and can be a useful tool for screening calls and messages.

Not only that, but you can also decide to answer the phone in the midst of someone leaving a voicemail by simply pressing the * key.

6. You Can Set Up Call Forwarding Rules

This service lets you forward all your numbers and calls to one single Google Voice number. However, that’s not all. You can set up specific rules for the calls to determine what calls go where and when. 

For example, say you are playing golf for the day and don’t want to be bothered. You can set up rules to have any calls to your cell phone forwarded to your office for the hours you’ll be golfing. 

Another option is to set the order of importance with phones if you need to make sure you get a call. This means that someone trying to reach you could call your Google Voice number, and you have it set up to go to your home phone first, then your work phone if you don’t answer at home, and then your cell phone if you don’t answer the other two. Or you can have all the numbers ring simultaneously, which is a great feature for small business owners or independent contractors.

7. You Can Record Calls

Google Voice allows you to record calls easily and enables you to start and stop recording with the touch of a button. You can easily access the recordings online at any time. This is an excellent feature for important meetings and interviews that occur over the phone. They can be saved and referenced whenever necessary.

8. You Can Easily Switch Phones

A unique feature of this service is that you can switch phones mid-call. You simply press the star key, and the other phones you’ve connected to your Google Voice will ring, and you can pick any of them up. You can literally pick up where you left off with a good chance that the person on the other end of the phone will never know anything changed.

How Google Voice Works

All of the above features can work thanks to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). This technology allows you to use a broadband internet connection to make calls instead of a phone line. 

What happens when you make a call with your Google Voice number is that it converts your voice into a digital signal that travels over the internet. With a VoIP service like Google Voice, you can make calls directly from a computer. 

Only a connection to the internet is needed to make any phone calls via Google Voice.

What You Need for Google Voice

All you need to set up Google Voice is a valid Google account and a U.S. or Canada phone number (either mobile or landline). That phone number is what Google uses to verify your identity and as the forwarding number.


When making calls from the United States and used by one person, nearly all Google Voice to U.S. and Canada numbers are free. You can likely get by with just Google Voice for personal use if you’re looking to just make and receive calls.

However, if you want more features and more access, you will want to look at Google’s paid Workspace plans. There are four to choose from, and each comes with access to the full suite of Google cloud products (like Drive, Docs, Jamboard, and more).

The entry-level Business Starter costs $6 per user per month and provides:

  • Custom business email
  • Video calls for up to 100 participants
  • 30 GB of cloud storage
  • Security and management controls

At $12 per user per month, Business Standard adds another 50 allowed participants to video calls and increases storage all the way to 2 TB.

But, better still, it adds two really useful calling features that are missing on Business Starter: call noise cancellation and the automatic saving of recorded meetings to Google Drive.

Business Plus continues the trend of adding cloud storage (5 TB) and video call capacity (up to 500 participants). You also get more advanced security control and the ability to archive and search through your vault of call data. This plan will run you $18 per user per month.

Last, there is a custom-priced Enterprise plan, which allows for full control and can be tailored to fit your needs through a conversation with Google’s sales folks.

How to Get Started With Google Voice

Getting Google Voice set up is a fairly quick and easy process.

Step 1: Sign in to Google

When you head over to the Google Voice homepage, you’ll see an option in the upper-right corner for you to log into your Google account.

If you’re already signed into your Google account on this browser, you’ll be taken directly to the next step.

Step 2: Choose Google Voice Phone Number

Once you’re logged in, you will choose a phone number in your area that you want to establish as your Google Voice Number. 

Search by your city name or area code to see what numbers are available. If there are no available numbers in your area, you can try somewhere nearby.

This also works to procure a virtual number for somewhere other than where you live. That gives you the option to use an area code more local to your customers, client base, or whomever you’ll be calling.

Keep in mind, you’ll need an existing U.S. phone number of your own to complete the process of getting your Google Voice number.

Step 3: Verify Existing Phone Number

Once you have found a virtual phone number you want, click Select.

Next, you will be prompted to verify your existing number. Do this by clicking Verify and typing in the number you want Google to forward your calls to (for example, your cell phone number).

Click Send Code and then wait for Google to call or text you with the verification code. Once you have that code, enter it into the appropriate field and click Verify.

Step 4: Finish Set Up On Computer

To confirm that the number you verified is indeed the number you want your calls forwarded to, click Claim.

You will have the option to change this number later if you need to. 

Click Finish twice, and you’re ready to use Google Voice on your computer.

Step 5: Download the Google Voice App

Next, you want to get Google Voice working on your phone. Navigate to the app store and download the Google Voice app from either the Apple app store (iPhone) or the Google Play Store (Android). 

Open the app and sign in to your Google Account. Here, review the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy and accept them.

How to Make Your First Google Voice Call

Making your first call with Google Voice is a straightforward process that feels almost exactly like calling someone on a normal phone. It can be done either from your computer or your smartphone. 

Either go to on your computer or open up the Voice app on your phone.

Navigate to the “Calls” tab. If the person you want to call is in your recent calls list, hover over their name/number and hit the phone icon to call them. You can also call someone from your contacts list on the right side. Or you can manually dial using the keypad. 

For your Google Voice number to remain active, you must make at least one call or text per month. If you fail to do that, you will lose your Google Voice number after 30 days of inactivity. In that case, you will need to sign up for a new number the next time you sign in.

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