Want to stretch your monthly minutes into an infinite number? Get over to Google, and sign up for Google Voice.
Google Voice is a free service from Google that is basically a web based phone forwarding service. Except for international calls, it’s totally free to use.
What Google Voice does is give you a stand alone phone number which you can then give out as your regular phone number. Then you change your Google Voice settings to have calls forwarded to any of your phones – home, office or even your cell. That capability is how you can stretch your monthly cell phone minutes.
Here’s how it works: Google Voice allows you to decide whether you want incoming calls to show the actual caller ID of the person calling you, or if you just want to display your Google Voice phone number. If you configure Google Voice to show the Google Voice number rather than the individual phone number, every single call coming in forwarded through your new Google Voice phone number will look like itâ€™s coming from your Google Voice phone number. This is great if your cell phone plan has a â€œFriends and Familyâ€ feature (or MyFaves or Top 5 or whatever your wireless company calls it) where you can select several phone numbers to make and receive unlimited calls from.
So, if you add your Google Voice phone number to your â€œFriends and Familyâ€³ list (or My Faves, etc), then all calls that come in from that number would be free. Then, in the future, you should only hand out your Google Voice phone number (instead of your cell phone number) so when someone calls you, they would be calling you through Google Voice. Remember, your Google Voice phone number is appearing on the caller ID for every call you receive, so as far as your cell phone provider is concerned, it would be as if you were making and receiving calls to and from only one phone number which just so happens to be a phone number in your list of “Friends and Family”.
The downside is that you lose your ability to see the real caller ID – only your Google Voice number would be visible to you. But, Google Voice has many different customizable settings where, for example, you can elect to have callers announce themselves before their call is forwarded, etc. But, not having caller ID would be a small price to pay to have nearly unlimited minutes every month.
Some phone services may have found a way to prevent you from assigning the Google Voice number to your “Top 5″ or “My Faves” plan but it’s worth a shot to find out.