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Going Phoneless

Life in the 21st century without a cell phone

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Tag: Skype
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In my opinion, Google Voice should be enough on its own for most people to quit paying for phone service. But in some cases, you might need just a little bit more.

One current weakness of Google Voice is that it is only available inside of a web browser. I’m sure that will change at some point in the future, but for today, that’s a limitation that I can’t get past — especially since the in-browser implementation relies on Adobe Flash. That means it won’t work on an iPad or iPod.

I travel a lot, and when I travel I typically do not take a computer with me — just my iPad. So for the times when I want to be available, I can run Skype on my iPad or on an iPod Touch. And for a few dollars, I get a phone number from Skype to which Google Voice will forward calls.

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That also makes it more convenient to talk at home or at the office, because I can walk around while talking on Skype for iPhone/iPod, whereas I’d be stuck in one place if I talked on the computer.

Also, since I use Skype a lot, this is more convenient for me. Skype is always running on whatever computer I’m working on, so I don’t have to remember to open a browser and park it on the Gmail site all day just to receive calls.

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Part of the equation that made going phoneless a reasonable possibility for me was the addition of Google Voice calling inside of Gmail. I have been using Google Voice for over a year, and I have been quite fond its voicemail transcription and SMS features. I can send and receive SMS messages for free from my Google Voice account, and if someone calls (and I don’t answer) their voicemails are transcribed and emailed to me!

The only missing detail, though, was the ability to make calls. But last month, Google added voice calling to Gmail. So now in addition to SMS and voicemails, I can make and receive phone calls, all from within a service I already use: email. (Okay, technically, I have to switch over to Voice to send an SMS.)

And even better, the service is free, and calls made within the US are free. So if you’re not making international calls, there is no cost whatsoever. But if you do make international calls, the rates are still pretty good.

For most people, I believe that Google Voice could, on its own, completely replace their phone service. In a future post, I’ll talk about why it’s only 80% of the equation for me, and why Skype makes up the last 20% of my plan.