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My Google Voice Rant

So, I've been a Google Voice subscriber for about 2 years. I have one of the most awesome phone numbers you can get: 686-8086 (it has an inside geek reference to x86-based CPU architectures, and also to my PGP key ID of 0x8086060F. Awesome, eh?!). I've used it for SMS text messaging, receiving calls, and placing calls (almost 4,000 total calls). I've used it for conference calls as well. I've blocked spammers, recorded calls, transferred calls, and pretty much have used it fully. After all this, I have some gripes.

  • I get A LOT of missed calls when people call my Google Voice number.
  • I get A LOT of static on the line versus calling my cell directly (I honestly don't understand why).
  • Managing the "other" numbers for contacts is messy.
  • Conference calls only support 4 people- you, and 3 other callers.
  • Conference calls can only be initiated when people call your Voice number (you cannot invite people to the call).
  • When using SMS on Android, the notifications are filled with the name presented twice- once for the Google Contact contact, and then again for the Voice Caller ID.
  • Unless you're using Android (or maybe other OSes), calling from your phone will not show the Google Voice number on their caller ID, unless you call your Voice number first, then follow the phone tree to dial the number you wish to call (a PITA).
  • Some cell phone providers offer unlimited minutes when calling other cellular phones. Using Voice means calling a landline, which means using your minutes, regardless of who made the call.

I like the spam options of the service. It has come in handy. And I've recorded a few phone calls for logging reasons. However, I've found that using Google Voice in totality is becoming more of a pain than a benefit. Losing calls is especially annoying, definitely when you're waiting for a job offer (ugh). I'll continue to hand out the number to companies and people that I don't care much about, but I've been handing my cell phone number out more and more lately, because Voice is just getting in the way.

Anyway, just had to get this off my chest (missing a call this morning was REALLY upsetting, and sparked the post).

{ 14 } Comments

  1. Chuck | January 5, 2012 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    I'd say demand your money back. After all, it is such an expensive service that these limitations should not be allowed to continue!

    Missing calls is irritating, I'll grant you that. However it is the service you have chosen. Is there a SLA that you and they agreed to?

    On a serious note, the limitations on services that you're complaining about is kinda irritating. You have to expect such things from a FREE service. You can only conference call with three others when they call you. Boo hoo. At least you can conference call for free.

    You have to call the GV number to get it as your caller id because it is cheaper (and/or profitable) for GV to do it that way and maintain the FREE status of the service. Deal with the PITA for the FREE service.

    Burn cel minutes to use a FREE service. Its your choice to use it.

    Bottom line, if the service does not meet your needs, go elsewhere. With you being a tech guy managing your own Asterisk server is a real option. You get most of the GV services out of the box or with addons, but without the Google integration. For the phone service my monthly bill is typically under $8 and that is three DIDs, e911, and talk time. One number, e911 and talk would be about $4 a month.

  2. Shane | January 5, 2012 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    I've found the experience from an Android phone to be MUCH better. With the official app, you gets SMS and other notifications pushed to you and not in duplicates.

    I used to get a lot of static and echo awhile back, but I rarely run into that problem now. Not sure how my account is different though. Maybe region?

  3. Aaron Toponce | January 5, 2012 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    @Chuck- So, what you're saying is, you're not allowed to complain, unless you spend money? Interesting.

  4. Tim | January 5, 2012 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Some thoughts from my 2+ years of use (1 year of which I've been using it exclusively, nobody knows my cell number):
    I've never had a missed call that I can blame on GV. All missed calls have been legitimate (e.g. I didn't answer).
    I have absolutely no issue with static on calls. There is no difference in call quality GV versus non.
    What "other" numbers for contacts are you talking about? Once I set up the GV app to make all calls using my GV number, and since everyone calls that number directly, I don't ever deal with any number I'm not suspecting (it just behaves like it would should I be using my normal cell number).
    "When using SMS on Android, the notifications are filled with the name presented twice" Sync & Notifications --> Receive text messages, then choose "Only via the Google Voice app" to remove duplicate notifications.
    "Unless you’re using Android (or maybe other OSes), calling from your phone will not show the Google Voice number on their caller ID, unless you call your Voice number first, then follow the phone tree to dial the number you wish to call (a PITA)." <--This shows the flexibility of Android, not a limitation of Google Voice.

  5. K. Darien Freeheart | January 5, 2012 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    I've been using Google Voice for a while, since it was GrandCentral.

    My experience has been nearly the opposite of yours, though the old adage YMMV is always true.

    A lot of the problems you mentioned actually are solved by using a Google co-branded phone. For instance, SMS is integrated to Google Voice, dialing is simple and calling FROM GV is as easy as not. Even the "free calling" thing is solved. Several US carriers offered "enhanced integration" with Google such as replacing their standard voicemail with Goggle and considering a Google Voice number linked to their system as a mobile phone. Being as I use GV exclusively, every call I ever made was covered under the "unlimited mobile-to-mobile".

    It's important, when critiquing a service, to distinguish between the devices you're using, the carriers you're crossing and the regions you're in. Those flaws may not all belong to Google Voice.

  6. Chuck | January 5, 2012 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    @Aaron I'm not saying that you cannot complain. Feel free to rant all you want.

    What I am saying is that a lack of features and demands for more in a free service is not something that will gain sympathy with many people. What your complaints sound like to me is 'This is a service given to me for free that I take advantage of and I want more free stuff out of if'.

    Griping that your free t-shirt is the wrong shade of grey and the sleeves come down a bit too far for comfort just sounds ungrateful.

  7. Roger | January 5, 2012 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    I found the voice quality to be quite a bit lower than a regular call which is disappointing.

    The other problem has been that I have never received an SMS from any place I have entered my GV number. This seems to be because sites that send SMS don't do it directly via the cell network but instead work out who the carrier is and then send directly via them, presumably to avoid SMS fees.

  8. Kodo | January 5, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    I PAID Google to port my number to Google Voice. My advice? NEVER ... EVER ... port a number you care about or you have used for a long time to GV. NEVER. the port worked for about 1 day and then suddenly, inexplicably ALL callers to my number were given the message: "this number is not in service." Hoping that someone would help me sort it out, I asked repeatedly for assistance, filed dozens and dozens of Trouble Tickets with GV and participated professioanlly and calmly in the GV forums. I did not receive a single response or email from GV. None. After a few weeks of this Kafka-esque dance, I reported GV to the FCC and ported my number out to a real voip provider. Irony of ironies, I received an email from GV AFTER the port was complete welcoming me to GV and stating that the port (IN) was a succcess when in fact it was a port OUT.

  9. Aaron Toponce | January 6, 2012 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    @Chuck- I must have missed where I was demanding anything. I was complaining about the service, not saying I want my money back. Also, I'm not looking for sympathy. If I was, I would go to my wife, not the Internet. It's a gripe. On a personal blog. About a service, free or not. I'm not seeing the issue.

  10. Aaron Toponce | January 6, 2012 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    @Tim- Regarding the "other" numbers for contacts. When you call someone with your Google Voice number, Google calls an intermediate number, which forwards your call. That number, usually out of the area code you are calling from, forwards your call to the person you wish to speak with. It's completely transparent, and no one knows that middle number, UNLESS you use SMS with Google Voice. Then, you receive an SMS from this middle number (which remains unique for the number they are texting from). So, you have their mobile number, and this "other" number.

    Unfortunately, what has happened for me, is I have added all these middle numbers as "other" numbers to the Google Contact, so when an SMS comes in, I see the contact name in the application, rather than just a number. Then, when I wish to call someone from my address book, I am presented with their "mobile" and "other" numbers. Sometimes the "other" number changes, if I haven't used it with that contact for a while. So, I take the old one out, put the new one in. If I don't take the old one out, well, you get the idea.

    It's messy.

    Also, I get missed calls frequently. Not every time, but more often than not. My phone will vibrate, notifying me of a voice mail (complete with SMS transcription), but I do not see a missed call notification. This is only a problem with Google Voice. I'm guessing that during congestion times for my carrier, Google's voice mail has kicked in before the call got forwarded, possibly by getting backed up at the tower, and it went to voice mail before the call could be connected to my handset. It would be nice, if I had some way to still use the Voice voice mail, but lengthen the time of the rings, increasing the chances of the call connecting to my handset.

  11. Aaron Toponce | January 6, 2012 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    @K. Darien Freeheart- I am using a Google-branded phone. I have the HTC Evo 4G. These problems are the problems I experience, on that phone, with the Google Voice app installed and configured. For some examples:

    * I use Go SMS Pro for my SMS app of choice. When someone sends me an SMS to my Voice number, I see the name twice, as mentioned in the post- one for the main Google Contact, and the other for the Caller ID match. So, something like this shows up in my notification bar: "Sharon Johnson - Sharon Johnson - Hi, I've ...". I could use the Voice app directly for SMS, but it doesn't have the features I look for in an SMS application. Same is true for the default "Messaging" app.

    * Another gripe I have with Voice regarding SMS, is when someone sends messages that are longer than 160 characters- say 200 characters. The messages get chopped up, of course, but they are not delivered in order. Ever. If they text my mobile number directly, they are. Usually, the message order is something like: 1, 5, 3, 2, 4. So, you can imagine the pain it is to piece together the message.

    * Calling from your Voice number is simple, you are right. But, then you are not taking advantage of the possible "unlimited minutes" between cellular carriers, should that be an option in your plan (it is in mine). Because I'm on the phone a lot, I don't want to burn minutes when calling my wife or coworker's mobile phone.

  12. Tim | January 6, 2012 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    @Aaron- Regarding the “other” numbers for contacts: I'm aware of the existence of the "middle numbers" when calling/texting. However, with my configuration, I've never seen them show up in caller id, nor in an SMS (I know of at least one other person who uses SMS to message me via GV).

    Again, the missed calls issue seems like a problem you should take up with Sprint.
    To lengthen ring time (at the possible expense of some battery charge) I'd suggest you 1) update your preferred roaming list and 2) investigate reducing your slot cycle index (

  13. stephen | January 11, 2012 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    my google voice recently stopped working 4 sms. i use it with my landline & it
    worked perfectly 4 close 2 a yr. i see other problems people have had, but my problem seems a bit different. is there a fix 4 this?

  14. Bert | April 8, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink


    I have unused x86 computers, am "tech savvy," and would really enjoy setting something up. What are the components, vendors, etc?

    $4/month would get you how many minutes? Is texting a feature?


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