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Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to get free, unlimited calling to anyone from your cell phone, without having to pay for your cell phone company’s premium unlimited plan? Well… there might be!
First, a little warning
Now the good stuff
Google has built up a reputation of giving things away for free. Their Google Docs tools essentially replace Microsoft Office (for free), YouTube (owned by Google) lets you watch all the free video you want, while the ubiquitous GMail provides email access to millions (also free). Click here for a list of free Google services.
But one Google product you might not be familiar with yet is Google Voice. The service gives you a free local phone number from which you can make and receive unlimited national calls without paying a dime (their international rates are also some of the lowest I’ve seen).
How does it work? Google forwards all calls it receives on your Google Voice phone number to any other phone number(s) you specify. This can be a land line, cell phone, or any combination of multiple numbers. Thus, you can give out your Google Voice phone number and when someone calls, you can have it ring your home phone, your work phone and your cell phone all at the same time.
But here’s the killer feature… Google Voice lets you decide whether you want incoming calls to show the actual caller ID of the person calling you, or just your Google Voice phone number. So if you set things up right, every single call coming in from your new Google Voice phone number will look like it’s coming from only your Google Voice phone number. This is a really good thing if your cell phone plan has a “Top 5 Friends” feature (or something similar) where you can choose several phone numbers to make and receive unlimited calls from.
Suppose you add your Google Voice phone number to your “Top 5″, so that all calls coming from that number are free. Then, only give out your Google Voice phone number so that whenever someone calls you, they’re calling you through Google Voice. Remember, your Google Voice phone number is showing up on the caller ID for every call you receive, so as far as your cell phone provider is concerned, it will appear as if you are making and receiving calls to and from only one phone number… a phone number in your Top 5.
Now call up your cell phone provider and drop your plan to the lowest priced one they offer (which still has the Top 5, or similar feature). You’ll pay the lower rate to your cell phone company and use the free Google Voice phone number to make and receive calls on. Since the Google Voice number is in your Top 5, all calls to and from that number will be free.
Voila! Depending on your current plan, you might’ve just saved yourself $50 or $60 a month. Of course, the catch is that you’ll have to get your friends and family to start calling a new phone number, but it’s really not as difficult as it might seem.
How to get a Google Voice phone number
Right now, Google Voice is still in “beta”… meaning it isn’t quite ready for primetime. So, the only way to get a Google Voice phone number is to get an invitation. You can sign up to request one from Google, or ask a friend who already uses Google Voice if they were given any invitations they can pass on.
But since it’s a cool service, offers dirt cheap international calling, and provides you with a unified phone number that can ring all your phones (for free!), its probably worth the wait for your invite to come.