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dave

March 18th 2014 12:34 pm

Any viable Google Voice competitors that you use?



It sounds like Google with be shuttering Google Voice (and integrating many of its features into Hangouts) in the next few months: 9to5google.com­/2014­/03­/18­/google­-plans­-kill­-google...

I was just thinking this yesterday as I used the (rather horrible) Google Voice app on iOS 7 -- it seems like something that hasn't gotten much recent attention or love from Google. It's something that I've found very handy though, even as an iOS user. It's literally the number I put down whenever I fill out forms requiring a contact phone number -- and it's become an awesome way to screen and filter calls.

So, I'll be a bit sad to see this sort of thing go. Are there any other services around where you can pay for a number and have it forward to your phone (yet you can manage filters and messages through an online interface)?

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17 replies
Dignan17

Dave: I think I'd hold off until we actually know something. That article is pretty filled with rumor and assumptions.

First, the author assumes that the Hangouts integration will behave just like it does on the desktop, where calls to your phone would be sent over VOIP instead of cellular voice. I'm not sure what evidence there is of that. Before Hangouts was even ever a thing, Google Voice worked on the desktop to make and receive phone calls, it just did this through Google Talk. At that point, if you made/received a call on your computer, it was VOIP, and if it was on your phone, it used your voice plan. I'm not sure why it would be any different, even though I'd really like it.

There's just so much we don't know yet, and a lot that Google needs to do. First off, they need to figure out how they're going to handle voicemail. I don't see any mechanisms for that in Hangouts yet, but I'm hopeful they'll add it. I wouldn't mind integrating everything into Hangouts, it just has to be done well, and currently it's anything but. For example, I can't get SMS to my Google Voice number in Hangouts. It's really annoying. I'm hopeful that they'll fix this.

In the end, I've definitely expected this for a long time. The Google Voice app hasn't been updated since September of 2013, and that was probably for minor issues. The app hasn't seen a major overhaul in years, and has tons of bugs (navigational ones, mostly, but also one where I have to press the play button on a voicemail several times before it'll finally advance past 1 second). I'm hopeful that Google Voice will live on in the form of Hangouts.
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frankspin

I agree completely here. The article makes it seem like Voice, as a product, is going away. I believe the intention is to unify it more on the OS level with Android. It will still work the same everywhere else.
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Dignan17

That's what I'm thinking. We all knew that the Google Voice app hadn't been updated in eons, and that it would probably be integrated with Hangouts at some point. What's less clear is actually what will happen on the desktop, which is where I use GV half the time. The GV website is one of two places where you can get your voicemails, and I'm wondering what the future of that site is and how IT will be integrated with Hangouts. If anything, the GV site is even more depricated than the current GV app because there's parts of it that straight up don't work! There's an area where you can call numbers, but it only uses Google Talk, which doesn't exist anymore. Otherwise you have to make it connect to your phone.
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frankspin

The Google Voice website is very Gmail circa 2005.

In the end as long as the number continues to work and forward as it does I'll be content. The biggest hurdle so far was dealing with it losing XMPP support via GTalk and I have that solved.
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Dignan17

Yeah, I was really disappointed they abandoned XMPP. The Obi devices you mentioned were great for people who wanted to abandon their landline phones. Ooma is pretty good but their hardware is much more expensive and some of it is utter crap (their handsets are junk, at least the previous revision were).
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nolsen311

Not quite true. Voice+ (@koush) allows you to send/receive GV-SMS using Hangouts. It's really pretty slick.

...but I do agree that we should wait and see before making any sudden moves.
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cjtylr

For what it's worth, here are instructions on porting your number away from Google Voice: https:­/­/support.google.com­/voice­/answer­/1316844­?hl...
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flackend



Come on Google!!
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HughesNet

I use Line 2 for this. It is as good if not better. It will give your phone a fully functioning second line that works for its own calls, visual voicemail, sms, mms, ect and can be managed via a web page as well. It will manage its own calls or you can have it just forward if that is what you like. It will make and receive calls and texts over any kind of data connection as well. Depending on the level you get it can also include a softphone, multiple lines, and extension support.
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frankspin

I took this to mean that Voice will no longer be a stand-a-lone service, but rather one that is integrated into Hangouts. If this means larger issues with the number I will have to find ways to port it out to another service as I don't want to rely on Hangouts to handle phone calls.

We were using Obihai to act as a SIP for Google Voice, but when they announced they were stopping support*** I switched to Ooma.

***Support is stopping because XMPP is being phased out of Google Talk, so who knows when chat clients will stop working with it.
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groovechicken

I wrote up a fairly lengthy piece on my adventures replacing Google Voice and posted it on my site. I just cross-posted it here so we could discuss it:

www.engadget.com­/discuss­/replacing­-google­-voice­-1p...

The options are not so great if you don't want to break the bank.
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mikepugh

eVoice, Grasshopper, and Line2 are all good solutions.
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02infinite

You can still use your Obi device with a FreeDID from IPComms and continue receiving free inbound calls.
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yosemite14

I second @mikepugh on his choices. I'm in the same boat, having used Google Voice for years. No major updates, only a minor change in appearance this year. It works the same way, has all the same gripes. Now after seeing the changes in Hangouts, its safe to say the Google Voice app won't be getting any updates users like us hoped for. All the improvements in functionality will come in Hangouts.

I for one, am not interested in Hangouts integration with my google voice number, not eager for Google+/messenger/whatever they call the chat presence now. I just want a number to be able to make/receive calls, send/receive texts with MMS, and have voicemail. I don't mind paying and thats why I looked into options with my carrier (expensive no matter who...Verizon/AT&T etc), Skype, and Line2.

Skype (www.skype.com­/en­/features­/online­-number/) and Line2 for personal (https:­/­/www.line2.com­/personal) are the best two options I've seen. Skype's call history/log isn't solid, but Line2 is working great so far. I hope they add MMS soon. $9.95 a month is pretty reasonable. Skype's pricing isn't as simple. You need a calling plan such as $2.99/month in the US, then the pricing monthly or annually for the number. Still no text I believe.

If Line2 keeps working the way it is for me, I'll port my Google Voice number over and finally have a one-app/service VoIP solution. About time! (fingers crossed)
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groovechicken

I have been beta testing for ring.to and it has a lot of promise. They are working out a few remaining kinks in the new UI for the app and dealing with some backend quirks, but it has been a solid Google Voice replacement for me. It's free, so you may as well try it out. I ported my number in a while back and have not had any real problems with aside from the usual issues that come with beta testing early access versions of the app.

I am always leery of anything free, but I pinned them down on their business model and they are offering the consumer version of this free because it is a testing ground for their corporate VOIP services. So far, I have no real reason to doubt the truth of that assertion.
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Dignan17

"I for one, am not interested in Hangouts integration with my google voice number, not eager for Google+/messenger/whatever they call the chat presence now."

Ok... you don't really say why but I understand if that's your preference. However...

"I just want a number to be able to make/receive calls, send/receive texts with MMS, and have voicemail."

You can use the Hangouts app for all of that and just use it for that, if you want. It takes a little while to get everything set up, but that's essentially exactly what I'm doing with my Hangouts app. In fact, there's one thing the Hangouts app provides over the old Google Voice app that's a giant deal: VoIP! You can now place calls over WiFi or cellular data, which was a big deal for me when I was on the $30/month TMobile plan and only had 100 minutes of talk. I never hit it because I could call over data.

I didn't like the Hangouts app at first either, but it's so very much better than the old Google Voice app. The only problem I have with having my voicemails in Hangouts, however, is that on the desktop it's hard to search or browse through old hangouts.
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yosemite14

Haha, yeah, that's why I said "I for one" - I might be one of the few who don't want to use Hangouts. Correct me if I am wrong since the last time I used it was a few months ago, but doesn't it require you to change/upgrade your Google account to Google+?

Does it show your online presence? This is the part I would rather not have. Around August I used Hangouts and yes the voicemail part was an issue, as was incoming calls. On my iPhone, it would buzz once like a regular notification, but it was actually a phone call. I wouldn't know if it was an incoming GV call/text.

The T-Mobile $30 plan is a huge interest to me. I guess I will download Hangouts again and check it out, but Line2 for $9.95 a month is doing the same thing, and it is a simple second phone number wrapped up in a VoIP only app. I believe it can do things like call forwarding and connect via cellular call, but I prefer it to be VoIP and separate my personal life from work/freelance gigs.
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