Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Free SMS on Any Smartphone with Google Voice

Google Voice is not a new service. It has been around for a couple of years providing free call forwarding to thousands of users. The concept is simple. Pick out a new [local] phone number from the website. Provide the phone numbers of all of your phones (Home, Mobile, Work etc). Then when someone calls your GV number, it rings all of your phones until you answer. Voice mail for all lines is handled through one mailbox on GV.

There are many other features that are less used. The following is a scenario where a contractor who travels to areas damaged by storms, needs a local number to provide customers. Many people will trust a "local" contractor before one from out of town.

My favorite feature of GV is free text messaging.  This post is aimed at guiding you through changing your number to your GV number and getting the most conventional SMS experience possible out of your smartphone.

There are many great advantages to using GV.  You eliminate your SMS plan with your carrier that is sometimes marked up by literally 10,000,000%, no really. You virtually get unlimited SMS for free. Another perk is that you may send and receive text messages on the GV website.  You don't need to be anywhere near your phone to LOL to your friends! In fact, your phone could literally explode and you could still send and receive texts on the website. Read messages automatically sync [after a minute or two] between the website and the app. So if you have an entire conversation on the GV website, you won't have hundreds of text notifications on your phone when you pick it up. Disclaimer: these experiences are from me using the GV Android app without any other third party apps like Handcent.

However, there are a few caveats to using GV. First, you must "change" your number to your GV number. Sending a mass text broadcasting your new number is more difficult in GV. The smartphone app proves to be time consuming and the online GV interface limits you to about 10 recipients at a time. I used Mass Text Personalizer because it is compatible with Android 4.0 and also supports GV. (On 4.0 be patient. It will force close but just keep clicking 'wait' and leave it alone)

Your phone must have the Google Voice app installed. This is available on Android and iOS, maybe more platforms. Make sure this app installs on your phone without any problems. You will not be able to do anything with the app until you set up your GV account on the web interface.

The last forewarning is GV does not [at this time] support picture or video messaging (MMS). I for one, do not send many pictures or videos over MMS. There are plenty of services out there (see facebook, imgur, picasa, google+, twitpic, etc) that provide an accessible picture viewing experience on a smartphone. This was a non issue for me.

Another thing I did was block SMS to my primary number (the number provided by my carrier).  Then be sure to remove SMS from your plan. This should save about $30 per month depending on your plan, on most of the major carriers. Remember, carriers charge you for receiving SMS messages whether you open them or not.

The GV app is compatible with many different SMS apps.  Handcent will work just fine. If that is an app that you are used to using, you will feel right at home.

This is how I use this service. share your experiences and suggestions in the comments.

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