Google Voice Unified

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about how to use a consolidated phone number for both the home and cellular phone. And while some degree of my method has changed in the couple of years, this method has been the same, and remained my way of having a home phone, and a cellular phone – while only needing to have one telephone number. However, in May of 2014 – Google will be terminating XMPP support with Google Voice. This will mean that most of the SIP providers, and IAX systems that plugs into Google Talk will no longer work. Now, companies such as Ooma, will still work – but this is because they just allow you to disclose your Google Voice number – but will use their network to make the call. You also have to pay $10/month + the ATA for this. Their ATA is about $150 – $200 which can be a little pricey when it means you will be able to plug a standard POTS phone into the device. You can also buy their cordless phones for better function – but these are $50 per phone, and the Ooma ATA only supports 4 phones. All together, you will be spending $500 + $120 per year for your home phone which may or may not do everything you would need to do.

I would still want a more unified solution, and while my proposed method will still be somewhat costly, it will be cheaper than the Ooma Solution. Keep in mind, there are a number of SIP providers that will allow you to spoof your CID to show your Google Voice number rather than a number they give you. As with the post this is replacing – I will use a similar format. I will go into detail on what you would need, then go into the hardware, and finally the services. I will identify how emergency calls are handled, and I will go into detail of what happens. I will go into additional options, and will explain what I “will” do. I will also go into the cost of services, and allow you to determine if the value is worth the investment.

First, you will need the following if you would wish to go through the steps I go. Again, you can choose a SIP provider that will allow you to spoof your CID, but this method will likely be more expensive on monthly costs, even though it will be cheaper initially. If you are going to follow this post, then this is what you would need.

  1. An Android Phone as your cellular phone (Good one – $200 +)
  2. A Republic Wireless version of the Motorola Moto G ($150 – $180)
  3. A Google Voice Number (Free or $20 porting fee)
  4. Ability to download Google Voice App (Free)
  5. A Wifi Router (minimum standard of Wifi-B) (Available from most ISPs)
  6. An Internet connection with the minimum requirements (expect $40+)
    • 256kbps alone is required for voice. You should have a minimum of 4MBPS for voice and basic browsing
    • A Latency of 100ms or less. Higher latency will cause stuttering in voice calls.
  7. A major credit card (for purchases, and service payments)

You would want to set up Google Voice. If you are doing this for the first time, and want to port your number – be aware of ETFs. Google will charge a one time fee of $20 for porting your cellular number to Google Voice. Keep in mind, you loose legal ownership of the number once it goes to Google Voice. If this concerns you, look into a forwarding service for the number. Otherwise, you will want to get a free Google Voice number which will be made available after your verify you have a United States Telephone number. This will prompt Google to call your phone which you will have to enter a 2 digit code for every phone you wish Google Voice to work with. You are limited to 5 phone lines, but let’s face it – you are reading this likely because you are trying to consolidate and not expand.

Now, if you port your number while under a contract, the porting automatically cancels services. You may have to deal with an ETF. I will recommend that you contact your carrier, and explain what you want to do (port your cellular number to Google Voice), but you have full intention on keeping the service. They should be able to work with you. If you are on a payment plan with your device, you may have to pay the remainder of the device payment plan immediately. If this is the case – this should be looked to as an ETF.

Now, you must use Android. The reason of why is RIM, and Windows Phone do not have a Google Voice App, and all of those services that will allow you to use GTalk to make Google Voice calls will likely fail in May of 2014. Because of this, you should invest in any of these applications. Now, the iPhone does have Google Voice in the app store, but this is a reduced and hobbled version of what Google Voice does. This is because without rooting your $650+ phone you would not be able to use any dialer as the default except the included dialer. You can use Sprint which will show your Google Voice number, but this could cause other issues, and this means is limited to Sprint Only. With Android, you can set Google Voice to handle all outgoing calls which is what you will want.

Sometime in April of 2014 – Republic Wireless is expected to offer the Motorola Moto G for $150 (8GB), and $180 (16GB) respectively. I will never recommend CDMA for cellular, and I feel dirty just saying this. Keep in mind, the Moto G is a 3G phone while the Moto X is an LTE phone. You could buy the Moto X if you want to spend twice as much, but that is your choice alone. When you order the Moto G, you would get a new phone number (unless you port a number). You will obviously need to add this number to your Google Voice Account.

Make sure that you set up call forwarding on all of the phones. You would want calls to forward to your Google Voice number when you are not available. This way, you have one single place for your voice mail. Google Voice also offers much more features such as text transcription, and custom announcements based on the caller.

Home Phone

Your home phone will be the Republic Wireless’ Moto G. You should be fine with the 8GB model as your home phone will likely not need a large music library, nor a lot of games on it. So, why would I be suggesting the Moto G and Republic Wireless. The Moto G is on Republic Wireless is actually cheaper than anywhere else. There is a reason for that, and I will get into that later. In addition, the Moto G has Android 4.4+ (Kit Kat). With this version, you would get the new dialer which will have some Caller ID integration. It works pretty well, even though it is only with select businesses for now. So, what would you need on your home phone? Most likely, just the ability to load your contacts, Google Voice, a SIP client (if you use SIP services), and a few essential apps. 8GB should do just fine on that. However, if you would feel a need to have this as a backup, you might consider the 16GB if you would feel you need to install music.

Cell Phone

Your cellular phone will need to be an Android. If you are considering a new phone (or service), I will recommend looking at LTE and then GSM-3G. CDMA does not allow simultaneous voice and data, however GSM-3G and LTE does. Personally, I use the Nexus 4 as my cellular phone, but would prefer the Nexus 5 (or whatever is coming later this year). You would probably want to look to a device that has Android 4.4 on it. If the representative promises that your phone will get such update – assume them to be a liar. Only devices I seen with a reliable update path are Google Nexus line, and Google Play Edition. And yes, other phones had received updates, but there was never a guarantee.

As noted Android is the only mobile OS that will work with the Google Voice completely. The iOS version will require that you select Google Voice first then make the call through that dialer. It can work on iOS, but it is a pain in the A**. Also, there is an HTML version of Google Voice for RIM, and Windows Phone, but again to do this route is simply put a pain in the A**.

Your ISP

You should have a broadband connection. FCC defines broadband as a 4MBPS down with a 1MBPS up. This is the minimum as you would probably want to do other things than make phone calls. Satellite Internet does not work. Depending on the quality, BPL (Broadband over Power Line) may not work. DSL might be too slow, and depending on how far you are from the CO, might have too high of latency. Your only realistic option is Cable, and FiOS.

Republic Wireless

They have one thing going for them, and that they are cheap. If you get the Wifi Only plan, this will be $5/month which is the cheapest I seen a home phone line, and this is cheaper than many SIP providers, especially considering that this is unlimited calling. You obviously need to have broadband, but most people probably have that. If you are getting Broadband just for the calling, you are likely going to be better off with an unlimited calling plan with many other providers.

There is a catch with Republic Wireless. If after the 30 days, you cancel your account – you will have to buy a new device to get new service. This is ridiculous, and in my opinion, should be criminal. You could technically root and flash your phone to work with other CDMA carriers, but this is not a guaranteed solution. You will also need to find the CDMA version of the Moto G software which is not likely to be easily found. So, if you buy the phone, pass the grace period – you are stuck keeping service or having a brick. Republic Wireless notes they are working on this policy, but until then – keep this in mind.

Your Cellular Carrier

Now, if you are like me, and for whatever reason will not have Republic Wireless as your cellular carrier – then you will need another phone. This might be a good thing if you want to keep the “Home Phone” at home. I can not give suggestions on which carrier is the best, as no carrier has perfect LTE coverage everywhere at a good price. Personally, I use T-Mobile and a Nexus 4, however I am satisfied with the quality of service I am getting from them in the Pittsburgh Pennsylvania area.

Emergency Calls

Since both phones are using an activated cellular line, this is not an issue. When you dial 911 – the Google Voice App relinquishes control and sends the number to the standard dialer. This will mean that the PSAP will see your cellular number, and not your Google Voice number. This is a good thing. In addition, when dialing 611 – it uses the standard dialer.

What Happens

Once you set up the Google Voice App, and use it to make all outgoing calls, what happens is simple. You dial a number, then app goes on the Internet to find a new number to call (if you never call this number). It will then call that number instead which the call it makes  is a voice gateway. The voice gateway knows it is your phone through CID, and knows what number you want to call. It will then forward your call to that number, but now shows your Google Voice number. Your cellular call log shows the numbers of these gateways, but your call log in the phone, and on Google Voice shows the number you wanted to call. This sounds overly complicated, but it does work 99% of the time.

International calls through Google Voice is also done in this manner. This means you can pay lower rates with Google Voice (although you must prepay funds). Calls to Canada are delivered for free with Google Voice which is typically cheaper than what your cellular carrier does. In addition, you should be able to dial iNUM (+883) numbers – although don’t enter the International Access Code (011), but just dial the 15 digit number starting with 883.  All of these calls go through various phone numbers in the continental United States which will mean your phone provider just needs to provide domestic US calling. Calls will use any limited rate plan you have.

Additional Options

Not much more is needed to be done. There are no tricks, nor hoops to jump through. You simply make sure you have the correct software on your phones. However, especially if you have family and friends in other countries, I will recommend that you consider getting a +883 number. Many SIP providers offers this number for free. If your family and friends have broadband, then they will just need an ATA or SIP phone configured correctly with their own provider. They will simply call the +883 number to reach you, and you can do the same (do not prepend the +). Calls should be free which one could never complain.

What I Will Do and Costs

First, I haven’t done this yet. I am waiting for Republic Wireless to offer the Moto G, and of course – I will need the money to purchase the phone. However, this will be imminent since Google is killing XMPP support. Rather than paying more money on a monthly fee to continue to use a cordless phone without all of my contacts, I will rather just push for a complete smart phone experience. So, here is what I will do.

  • Internet Service is FiOS at $65 per month. I obviously use Internet for more than just calls
  • Republic Wireless Moto G-8GB for $150 and Monthly Service is $5 for the wifi only plan
  • I own my Nexus 4, and my T-Mobile Plan is $50 (unlimited call/SMS+1GB) + $10 (Jump Insurance) + $10 (taxes) for a total of $70.

Therefore assuming that I use my Internet for much more than phone service, this will mean that having 2 phone lines (1 home, and 1 cell) with premium insurance on the one should cost around $75 per month. All of my unknown calls (those not in my contacts) will go to the home phone. Most of my contacts will go to my Cellular while important calls will go to both. When I don’t want to be disturbed by unknown callers trying to sell me something, I simply shut the Moto G off. I will obviously use the same credentials on both phones which will mean the same Google Voice number will show when calling from either phone, and all of my contacts will be on both phones. If I would want a set of contacts just on one or the other phone, I use groups to handle that, or at the very worst – set up a second Google Account.

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