Android + Google Voice = (almost) Free Mobile Plan

July 19, 2009

UPDATE: Here is a great resource for setting up Google Voice with VoIP services to eliminate your mobile calling plan altogether. Of course you’ll need a data plan for IP connectivity, but those are much cheaper than conventional minute-based calling plans.

UPDATE: T-Mobile has discontinued the plan referenced in this article. The cheapest T-Mobile plan with MyFaves is currently $39.99 for 300 whenever minutes and unlimited nights and weekends. With an unlimited data plan at $24.99 the total bill would come to about $65 plus a little extra for taxes. That’s still pretty good for an unlimited calling and data plan, but not as great as I previously advertised.

I have an Android phone. About two weeks ago I got an invite to Google Voice. Together they reduce my mobile phone bill by $45 per month.

If you haven’t heard of Google Voice you should check it out here and sign up for an invite. Basically Google gives you a phone number (that you can choose) that will ring any (or all) of your phones when called. There are a bunch of other features like one location to check all of your voicemail, transcription of voicemail into text (still very much a work in progress), and super-cheap international rates. Oh and did I mention all domestic calls and sms messages through Google Voice are free?

Here’s how it works (note that this is not VoIP): when someone calls your GV number, GV rings up whichever phones you’ve specified and connects the call. The call that you receive actually comes from your GV number, but they’ve sorted it out so that caller id still works seamlessly. This is the potentially annoying part: when you want to place a call through GV, you have to start it within the online GV system. The same is true for sms messages. For calls, the GV system dials the number you specify and then rings up your phone as well to connect the call. Again the call you receive is from your GV number, and the recipient sees your GV number as the source.

Using the above system I would probably never place a call through Google Voice. But of course Google decided to make my life awesome by introducing a GV mobile phone application for Android phones that integrates GV with your phone’s software and does all of the above for you automatically. I can now just place calls like I always have from my mobile phone and GV takes over.

So how does this save me money? If you were reading closely you’ll have noticed that with GV all of the calls I make are either to or from one number: my GV number. T-mobile, my cell carrier, offers plans with a feature called myFaves where you can select five numbers for which all of your calls are free. All I had to do was get the cheapest plan that gave me myFaves and make my GV number one of them. This plan costs $9.99, whereas I was paying $49.99 before. With reduced taxes this saves me about $45 per month. If I was paying for unlimited texting I would have saved more, since I don’t need an sms plan anymore either. Of course I still need the unlimited data plan at $24.99, but I was already paying for that.

I highly recommend this setup to anyone considering a new smartphone.

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