Google Voice was a wildly popular service when it launched more than nine years ago, but the company quickly lost interest. After years of neglect, Google is again working to improve Google Voice by updating its apps and rolling out new features. One long-awaited feature has just entered testing. Voice users can now sign up to gain access to Wi-Fi and mobile data calls. There are some substantial caveats, though.
Despite appearances, Google Voice has never supported VoIP calls. That’s one of the things that made it so enticing back when it launched. You could sign up and get a phone number that acted like a real phone number. Your phone would basically dial into Google’s system, and the person on the other end would only see your Google Voice number. It was kind of magical in 2009, so invitations to Voice were in extremely short supply.
Google started updating Voice again last year after years of ignoring it. The website and apps got a fresh coat of paint, and new features are added regularly. The latest move to add VoIP support brings new capabilities to Voice and helps untangle some of Google’s other services. If you want to try the new data calling features, you can sign up to be a tester right now. Google will notify everyone when the feature is live. Your Voice app should pop up a banner to alert you as well.
Placing a Google Voice call over data means you can avoid roaming charges while traveling internationally. You could also place calls over Wi-Fi when you have poor cell service. Calls will work via a web interface in Chrome as well. These benefits will be familiar to anyone who has used other VoIP services in the past. However, Google Voice still has a regular phone number attached.
Previously, users could place a VoIP call with their Voice number via Hangouts. Google has been gradually dropping features from Hangouts as it transitions it to a business-oriented communication tool. The new consumer chat app is Allo, which doesn’t integrate with Voice.
To place VoIP calls with Voice, you’ll have to use the Voice app on your phone. The phone dialer won’t be able to choose between numbers like it can with regular telephony-based Voice calls. Google also notes that 911 calls won’t work with Voice’s data calls right now. You’ll have to use your regular phone dialer for that.
Only Android users can try out Voice’s beta calls at this time. It should come to iOS users “soon.”
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