Sunday, June 3, 2012

What to do with multiple phone numbers

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I still have a landline. I have had that phone number for about 20 years now, and I like it—it’s easy to remember. I have actually had my cell number for about as long, but since I originally only had the cell for “emergencies,” I didn’t give that number out as often.

And since I didn’t get the best cell reception in my house, it didn’t make much sense to have that as a first option for people to call.The cell reception has improved and/or my smartphone works better, so my next step will probably be to switch my landline to VoIP—to save more money. In the meantime, however, as more people have been given my cell number, they haven't always known which number to call first.

Select Even more to access Google Voice
Google Voice number
There was still the issue of preferring to talk on my landline when I was at home. I found a solution—Google Voice. This is a free service from Google that allows you to pick a phone number that you can use in place of your other phone numbers—or in addition to them.

You don’t have to set it up this way, but I chose the option to have this one phone number ring my cell and my home simultaneously. This makes it easy for my friends and family to find me, and I still have the choice of talking on my landline phone if I’m home.

Find Google Voice under Home & Office
Choosing a number
It’s a neat process and I’m sure it varies by city/state as for the availability of numbers, but you start by picking an area code, and then Google will display phone numbers that are available and you choose the one you like. For larger cities, like Atlanta, you may find that every area code may not be available.

One of the advantages of this type of number is that there is no address associated with it, so it’s very much like a cell number in that regard.

You still have your other phone number(s) so unless you dial through Google Voice, your “real” number(s) will display on the other person’s caller ID. It’s up to you how you wish to use this.

What number to display
For my friends and family, they know that they may see my cell number or my home number pop up on their display when I call. But they have my Google Voice number programmed into their phones, so that’s the one they use to call me.

They can still call the other, but they will only reach one phone or the other. Well, in my case that’s not entirely true, but I’ll explain about that option later in this article.

If you want your new Google Voice number to be displayed on the caller ID of the person you are calling, you have to sign into Google Voice on your computer (or use the app on your phone) and dial the number of the party you want to call.

If you are on your computer, you select which phone you wish to call from and that phone will ring. Pick it up and then Google Voice will dial the number you have input.

It’s an extra step, and I only use this for calling places that I do not wish to see my home or cell number. Again, it’s the anonymity of the phone number not being able to be searched for additional information.

Forwarding options
Earlier in this article I mentioned that it isn’t entirely true that you will only reach my home number if that’s the number you call. This is because I had AT&T set up a permanent forwarding feature from my home number to my cell number. You can probably forward your phone yourself, but with AT&T it was an immediate forward with no chance to answer the home phone.

I still wanted an option to answer the home number first when that was the number that was ringing. When AT&T set this up as a permanent forward, they gave me an option of how many times my home number would ring before it’s forwarded. Ironically, after they set this up, I am able to override the number of rings from my phone. Let me know if you need more information about that.

If you are interested, Google Voice also offers voice mail and optional transcribed voice mail messages, but for now, I am using my existing AT&T voice mail, so I can’t speak to how easily that works.

So you can see that there are all sorts of options these days with choices of phone numbers and where and when your phone numbers ring.

Questions: Have you found a free text option that does not require the other person to use the same app? Do you use VoIP, and if so, what service do you recommend?

Leave a comment below and let me know.

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