Our long time phone number that you all are familiar with has not changed and will now directly follow us wherever we go. This may seem like a small thing, and lots of people have already done it, but for us it represents a major step in our transition plan.
The story begins last year when we were able to finally break free from the entrapment of the “bundle” plans offered by our broadband provider – not an easy task as the bundles are price structured so you can’t really cut services and save very much.
The first phase was to dump the “cable” TV in favor of free over the air reception via an antenna and to “port” our home “landline” phone number to an independent VOIP carrier (we used Ooma- which has free service if you buy their box). We did grudgingly keep the internet service as that is crucial part of our business and lives and was obviously needed for the VOIP phone service. That will get cancelled of course when the house sells.
Since that time over a year ago we have now fully embraced the mobile access metaphor via a smartphone with a full data plan for each of us (we use Sprint, for us it is by far the least costly and offers good service with unlimited data), putting the infrastructure in place for us to make the full transition.
So two days ago I had Sprint “port” our primary phone number from Ooma to Linda’s smartphone. This went smoothly and took less than 24 hours. Not too many folks knew Linda’s prior smartphone number so this was not an issue.
So, your thinking, now any calls made to our primary number just go to Linda’s smartphone, so what if Linda’s out and someone wants to call Rob? Or what if the battery craps out? Or what about the fact that our home is in a cellular weak spot and we have poor signal? Or what if I don’t want to carry my cell around the house with me all the time? Etc.
There’s a great and easy fix for all those issues – we took advantage of the Sprint/Google consolidated voice service (free) and also made our primary phone number our primary Google Voice number. This provides a bunch of slick features and a fantastic level of flexibility all for no cost.
Basically, with Google Voice any calls that are made to our primary number can now be simultaneously forwarded to all our other numbers. Primarily this is Rob’s cell phone, but we also have additional numbers we use for things like the business. Also the house still has it’s own dedicated number so we can communicate directly with the security system (all free VOIP service BTW). So any calls to our primary number ring simultaneously on all the phones in the house, Rob’s smartphone, Linda’s smartphone and anywhere else we choose. Since the calls to the house are forwarded from the CO there is no issue with the weak cell signal at the house.
Another feature in Google Voice is consolidated voice mail. Google will answer all our calls and not only record any voice message but make a text transcript of the audio message and email and/or text it to us – yes it converts a persons verbal message into text and sends it along to our smartphones – for free!
There’s also a great free Google smartphone app as well (Google Voice) that lists all your messages and call history for reading, audio playback, archiving, deletion or they can even be marked as “spam” – yes we get lots of spam phone calls so this is a great feature, we can block any number at will.
There’s lots more too, the capabilities of this service are pretty substantial and best of all its mostly all free. If you haven’t checked out Google Voice you may want to take a look. In most cases I would bet with a little imagination you can find a way to save yourself some money, or at the very least enhance the service that you might already have. If nothing else get yourself another free phone number for private use – give it out during those situations where you don’t really want the company or person to have your number but you still need them to be able to contact you – since the Google number just forwards to your real number, at any time you can very easily just dump the Google number and get a new one or simply block any numbers you don’t want to get calls from.
Here’s another example of a Google Voice feature – in the box below if you click “Call Me” then type in your name and phone number and click “connect”, Google will call you, ask you to press “1” and then call us and connect us together. If you normally have to pay for long distance you get a free call, and for me I don’t have to publicize my phone number – pretty slick.