How Google Voice Works – The Complete Guide

Google Voice is a quality, cost-effective VoIP solution that can work well for personal or company use, especially if you use other Google products. Though it didn’t make our list of the best business VoIP phone services, we still think it’s a smart choice for Google power users. But if you’re looking for a VoIP service that doesn’t rely on the Google suite, our top overall pick is Nextiva.


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. All of your Gmail calls come from your Google Voice number, so recipients know who’s 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 a text. You have the option to either read the text or listen to the voicemail. This is a great feature for those who need to determine whether a voicemail is important enough to leave a meeting or for people who hate listening to voicemails.

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. Not only that, but you can also decide mid-voicemail to answer the phone by simply pressing the star 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. 

However, if you want more features and more access, you will want to look at the different pricing options. Here are the features and costs of the different plans. 

Free. This price plan costs nothing and allows one user in one domestic location (U.S. or Canada). 

Starter. This price plan costs $10 per user per month and allows you up to 10 users in 10 different domestic locations under one account. 

You get: 

  • Free calling to the U.S. from any country
  • Free calling to Canada from any country
  • Unlimited SMS in the United States
  • Google Fi compatibility 
  • Voicemail transcription
  • Google Calendar integration
  • Google Meet integration
  • Mobile app for both Android and iOS
  • Web app
  • 24/7 support
  • Service Level Agreement
  • Usage and activity reporting
  • Call forwarding 

The Starter plan is best for small businesses and entrepreneurs with 10 employees or fewer. 

Standard. This price plan costs $20 per user per month and allows an unlimited number of users in unlimited domestic locations under one account. 

You get all of the things included in the Starter plan, as well as: 

  • Multi-level auto attendant
  • Ring groups
  • Desk phone support
  • eDiscovery for calls, voicemail, and SMS records

The Standard plan is best for domestic businesses of any size. 

Premier. This price plan costs $30 per user per month. It allows you to have an unlimited number of users in unlimited domestic locations and unlimited international locations under one account. You get all of the things included in the Standard plan and advanced reporting and data regions. 

The Premier plan is best for larger international businesses.

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

Sign in to your Google Account. 

Step 2: Choose Google Voice Phone Number

Go to From here, 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, try somewhere nearby.

Step 3: Verify Existing Phone Number

Once you have found a 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 (your existing cell phone number). Click Send Code. 

Once Google has called or texted you with the code, enter it online 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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