How Google Voice Works – The Complete Guide

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Google Voice is a top solution for people who already use and love Google products, which is one of the reasons it made our list of the best business VoIP phone services. It’s also a top choice for integrating your business and personal calling. With that said, Nextiva and Ooma are our top picks for VoIP providers, offering comprehensive features for businesses of all sizes.



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 an all-in-one business communications platform, Nextiva 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. It also works well as one of the best hosted phone systems working with VoIP technology.

Ooma offers a surplus of quality call management features, including virtual extensions for your team members, a virtual receptionist for directing calls, and transfer and hold music. These are just a few of the 50+ out-of-the-box features that come with Ooma’s Office Essentials plan.

Nextiva and Ooma are our top picks because of their reliability, feature-set, and price points, but that doesn’t mean they’re 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.

What Are the Best Tools for VoIP Phone Services?

For those who need more features that what Google Voice provides, our list of the best VoIP phone services and providers contains some solid contenders that may fit your situation better. We studied more than a dozen VoIP service providers before narrowing our list to the best options for the majority of users. These Google Voice alternatives have quite a few strengths.

Nextiva is our top selection among VoIP providers, as it has outstanding call quality for both incoming and outgoing calls, while featuring a great value in its starter-level plan. When you subscribe to Nextiva, you receive the ability to adjust your subscription plan’s features to match your growing needs.

If you select Ooma as your VoIP provider, you often can make use of your existing communications equipment, saving you money and simplifying the setup process. Reach out to Ooma today to receive a free quote for the services and features you need.

Why You Should Use Google Voice

If you’re already doing a lot of work within Google Workspace, Google Voice is a great add-on that simplifies the way you manage multiple phone numbers. 

At a minimum, most people have a personal cell phone number. 

Others might have a dedicated landline at their home or office. Some people even have a second cell phone number for business use, and others have some combination of these situations. 

With Google Voice, you can forward all of these lines to a single number, allowing you to answer calls from different numbers on a single device. There’s a good chance your smartphone is always within an arm’s reach—so you’ll always have access to your Google Voice line.

It’s an easy way for people to manage business calls, personal calls, and landlines. The solution is trusted by sole proprietors, small business owners, and large organizations alike. 

Regardless of your situation, Google Voice simplifies everything if you have multiple phone lines.

Some of you might feel like another phone number is the last thing you want. 

But a Google Voice number may be the last number you ever need. It’s perfect for merging multiple communications channels into one place. 

Another standout of Google Voice is its cost. With business plans starting at just $10 per month, it’s an affordable way for professionals to add a phone line without breaking the bank.

Here’s 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 and 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.

The Google Voice dashboard showing users in the browser interface.

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. 

The Google Voice mobile interface, showing two screens, one demonstrating the devices you can forward calls to and another showing spam-filtered messages

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. Listen To Voicemails in Real-Time

With Google Voice, you can listen to voicemails as someone is leaving them. This is a pretty unique feature that isn’t offered by many other phone services.

It’s a great way to quickly screen calls and messages without waiting for the message to end.

Even better, you can decide to answer the call in the midst of someone leaving a voicemail. All you need to do is press the * key, and you’ll be connected with the caller. 

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 phone system for the hours you’ll be golfing. 

example of Google Voice call forwarding rule setup screen

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.

Recordings can be really useful on calls when they require detailed note-taking. Rather than trying to keep notes in real-time, you can focus your energy on the call itself and always listen to the recording later on.

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.

This may not be something you use every day, but it works really well if you’re taking a call at your home or office and need to hit the road. It’s also useful if you’re running a bit late to a meeting and want to transfer to your preferred device when you arrive.

9. You Can Use It to Make Conference Calls

Conference calling is one of Google Voice’s open secrets. You can use the service for personal and business conference calls. We have a detailed guide for making conference calls with Google Voice that explains everything you need to know.

To clarify, this is not the same as using Google Meet for conference calling. While the two are definitely similar, Google Voice is a separate product.

10. You Can Block Certain Numbers Easily

When you are receiving phone calls that are spam or sales calls, you can use Google Voice to block them. Google Voice will not allow blocked voice calls or text messages to reach you. 

Additionally, the person generating the call or number will receive a message that says, “Number not in service.” The originating phone number may then remove you from the calling list.

After you block a number, Google Voice will keep a copy of the number in your messages and calls logs. You can go back to that number in the log of historical calls or messages and choose to unblock it in the future, if desired.

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.

Google Voice works natively on the following operating systems:

  • Windows
  • macOS
  • Chrome OS

According to Google, “limited functionality” may be available if you’re using another OS. But these are three systems that are officially supported.

You can also use Google Voice from your web browser if you’re using one of these four options:

  • Google Chrome
  • Safari
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Microsoft Edge

While you can set up Google Voice with just a Google account, you’ll need a working microphone and speaker to actually use Google Voice’s calling features. If your computer doesn’t have one built-in, you can always get a headset and use that to make and receive calls.

Alternatively, you can set up a multi-line phone system that’s compatible with Google Voice. This will allow you to use Google Voice’s calling capabilities through a traditional-style desk phone.

You don’t need to have a working microphone or speaker if you’re just using Google Voice to send text messages.


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.

But for business use with Google Workspace, you’ll need to select a paid plan. There are three options to choose from, and each can easily be added to your Workspace account.

Google Voice pricing plans

The entry-level Starter costs $10 per user per month and provides:

  • Up to 10 users
  • Unlimited texting in the US
  • Google Meet integration
  • iOS, Android, and web applications
  • Call forwarding
  • Security and management controls

At $20 per user per month, Standard supports an unlimited number or users and domestic locations.

It also adds useful business calling features like multi-level auto attendant, ring groups, and call recording. The Standard plan also supports desk phones, ATA adaptors, and SIP link.

The SIP link allows you to use Google Voice’s features while maintaining your existing carrier.

Premier includes everything in the Standard plan, plus unlimited international locations. Starting at $30 per user per month, it also supports automatic recordings and advanced reporting.

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 phone 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.

You may receive an error message while attempting to verify your phone number.

Google Voice page to verify virtual phone number with error message that says "This phone number can't be used to sign up for a Google Voice number. Try verifying with another number."

This typically happens if someone was assigned your phone number before you and used it to claim a Google Voice number.

You can only use a phone number once to claim a Google Voice number.  

Simply use a different number for verification and replace it with the original forwarding number once you successfully set up your account.  

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. Then just review the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy and accept them.

Step 6: Configure Your Settings

Once your account has been officially set up, you need to make sure that your audio settings are configured before you start making or receiving calls. Depending on your device settings, your microphone and speaker may be disabled by default.

Find the headset icon, which is located on the top right of your screen on a desktop web browser.

Next, select your microphone and speaker. You can use the mic and speak that’s built into your computer or select an external device.

You need to give Google Voice permission to access your microphone and speaker to proceed.

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. 

Finally, don’t forget to add the country code before the phone number when making international calls. For example, you’ll enter +61 before the phone number to make a call to Australia.

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.

How to Send Your First Text With Google Voice

Sending your first text with Google Voice is simple and is almost identical to sending a text through your smartphone’s native texting system.

Just be aware that if you’re sending a text to a non-Google Voice number, any messages longer than 160 characters will be sent as multiple messages. So it’s best to keep these texts short.

Once you have a Google Voice number, you can send a text through your computer, iOS, or Android device.

Simply open the Google Voice app or go to on your computer. Then select the messages tab and click the compose icon.

Screenshot of Google Voice texting feature from mobile app

Then select a number from your contact list or manually enter the number that you want to text.

Type your message, then click send. That’s it!

You can even use Google Voice to text multiple numbers in a group chat. As the sender, you can add up to seven recipients—as the platform supports group messages with up to eight numbers, including the initial sender.

Google Voice lets you add an image to your texts as well. But any images larger than 2 MB will automatically be sent as a smaller file. GIFs over 2 MB will not be sent.

It’s also worth noting that Google Voice’s texting feature is intended for interactive conversations, not mass messaging. If you try to use Google Voice for bulk messaging, your number could get flagged as spam by phone carriers.

How to Port an Existing Number to Google Voice

Before you start the number porting process on Google Voice, there are a few things to keep in mind:

First, only users on a personal Google Voice account can port a number on their own. Otherwise, it has to be done by a Google Workspace administrator.

Not every mobile number can be ported to Google Voice. Your mobile phone service plan will be terminated after the porting process is complete. Do not cancel that plan until you’ve verified a successful port.

There’s also a $20 fee if you’re porting a number from another phone carrier, like AT&T or Verizon.

Assuming your situation qualifies for number porting and you’re ready to proceed, simply open Google Voice and click Settings. Then navigate to your Account tab, and select Port Number.

Screenshot of Google Voice settings, with arrows pointed to Port Number in the Account menu

Click Get Started on the next page to continue.

Then enter the number you wish to port to Google Voice. You’ll get a six-digit verification code sent to you via text message to confirm the number. Or you can have Google call you to verify.

Enter the code, and Google will verify if it’s compatible for porting. Then you’ll be asked to provide your existing phone carrier’s information.

Review the request details and pay the $20 fee.

It can take up to 48 hours for the transfer to complete and up to three business days for texting to port to Google Voice.

Expanding Your Knowledge: How Google Voice Works

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