Direct calling and texting (SMS) on windows mobile with google voice

This post today is a bit different than my normal ones.  This post isn’t really intended for my “usual” audience, such as it is.  Rather, this post is a service to the internet at large.  I recently switched over to using Google Voice, a service that I’m very much a fan of.  However, the switch wasn’t without its headaches.  After a lot of searching, tweaking, and experimenting…  I finally figured out a way to deal with most of the problems.  This post is an attempt to roll together all the information I found to help other folks who might have the same problem.

So, what exactly is the problem?  Well, it has to do with caller and text ID when calling or sending from your windows mobile phone.  Lets say I have a contact called “Steve”.  In my phone, I have 3 numbers for Steve: home, work, and mobile.  If Steve sends a text to my google voice number or calls it, google voice can and will properly identify Steve and I will see his name on my phone.  (That is assuming that Steve is also in my Google Voice contacts, more on that soon).  However, if I want to send Steve a text myself, if I just pull up his mobile contact number and fire it off from my mobile phone, when Steve sees the new text, it will appear to be from my old “real” cell number rather than my new Google Voice number.

That’s a nuisance at best and annoying at worst.  Plus, it makes it confusing for your contacts when you have all these various numbers showing up for you.  The same thing is true for outgoing calls.  If you just pull up your contact info on your phone and call them, the call will appear to come from your old cell number rather than your Google Voice number.

What to do?

Lots.

First, I’m going to recommend that you get all your phone contacts uploaded to your google voice account.  You can do that the painful way of typing them all in, or you can do it the slick way of syncing them via ActiveSync.  Google has a walkthrough for how to do that here.  Before you do the Google Sync, I would recommend using a backup utility, cause there is a chance you might nuke all your contacts.  PIM Backup is a common one.

Ok, now, I’m gonna assume that one way or the other, you’ve got your contacts into your Google Voice account.  The first thing you need to do on your windows mobile phone is install an application called GV dialer.  GV Dialer basically automates the process of dialing into your google voice account, giving it a number to call, and placing the call.  In other words, you can now automatically make every call from your GV number if you want to.  GV dialer comes with a free 30 day trial and then it is $10.  Not too shabby.  It works well.

However, there is a drawback to the GV dialer method:  you have to wait on your phone to automatically navigate the GV phone menu.  That means that placing a call is now a 20 or 30 second process, which is a bit annoying.

Can’t we improve on this?

Oh yes, we can.

I am about to introduce you to the magic of 406 numbers.

Call up a good friend (via any method you like) and have them send you a text through your google voice number.  When the text arrives, you will see that the text appears to come from a 406 area code number.  This number is very important.

That number is a unique number that identifies that contact for you to google voice.  In other words, if you were to pick up your cell phone and directly call that number, what you are technically doing is calling a google voice server.  However, when it sees what number you dialed and what number the call is coming from (ie – your registered cell phone), that creates a unique combination that google voice can match up and it can then connect you the person you are trying to call.  Even better, when the person on the other end receives the call, it will appear to be coming from your google voice number.  It all happens naturally, without having to mess with calling into google voice.  It’s just like calling a regular number.

Even better, the same idea applies for text messages.  If you send a text message to that number, it will go to your contact and will appear to come from your google voice number.

Bingo, problem solved.

Now, how to implement the solution?

You will have to figure out who you call often enough to mess with this change.  Ask them to send you a text message to your google voice number.  Once they send it, make a note of the number.  What I did next was to add that number as that contacts mobile number.  Their old “real” mobile number I moved to be a second home number.  That makes sure that caller ID always works for them.  Plus, I’m never a fan of destroying information.  So, the whole thing is a little bit of a nuisance at first, but, once you have it running, you can naturally make calls and send SMS from your cell phone via your google voice number and everything will show up correctly to everyone.

I hope that saves someone else a little searching and experimenting.  Good luck!

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20 responses to “Direct calling and texting (SMS) on windows mobile with google voice

  • Hersh

    This is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks!

  • od

    your such…. a nerd!! but i lov you anyway. OD

  • Drew

    Thank you SO much for this. I’m on my winmo phone right now and i knew there had to be a better way to txr with google voice than going online every time.

  • Eric

    Haven’t put it to use yet but thanks for the valuable information.

  • Heca

    I just have google voice send sms to my pocket pc synced email account, as this way I do not have to pay cell company for sms. When I respond to he email google sends sms from google number.

  • Shaun

    I am not sure I am fully understanding this. When I get a text from someone it shows up in my Google Voice account online as the person’s real number not a #406. Curious to where I missed it.

  • Caleb

    @Shaun:

    The 406 number will only show up on your actual cell phone, not in you GV account. Check your message history on your phone and you should see texts coming from 406 numbers.

  • Devin

    This is great but i’m curious about something, how does google know what to call take for example this

    Devin
    Mobile 659*******
    Home 660*******

    When I get a text from mobile it’s a 402 number

    If i change it to this

    Devin
    Mobile 402*******
    Home 660*******
    Home2 659*******

    Then how is google going to know to contact their mobile?
    I think the difference we have is you have a google contact list and a phone contact list, but for me it’s synced, so if i change the mobile number to the 402, how is google going to know what the mobile number is for the contact?

    Thanks for help

    • Caleb

      Devin:

      I was actually using a WinMo phone with synced google and phone contacts as well, so, I know that the setup you have can work.

      To answer your question, when you call the unique number (402 in your case), what I think happens is you are actually calling a google switchboard. That 402 number paired with your number (showing up on their caller ID) creates a unique combination that identifies who it is you want to reach and where you want to reach them… in other words, it tells the google switchboard to forward the call to your contact’s mobile number.

      To test it out, just make a note of the 402 number and give it a call. You should find that it calls your contact on their mobile.

      Hope that helps.

      • Caleb

        I should also add that one weakness of this method is that you still can’t call their hardlines via googlevoice. Perhaps that was where some confusion was coming in. The 406 (or 402) numbers can only be used to call a line that has sent you an SMS message previously… which typically isn’t happening from landline phones.

        In related news, I just switched to a google android phone and the Google Voice integration there is fantastic. If you find yourself really enjoying Google Voice, I suggest you give an android phone a look.

  • LAKINGS

    What app do you use on the google phone?

    • Caleb

      I use the ‘Google Voice’ app that Google makes themselves. It is excellent. It makes using your Google Voice number totally painless and makes it feel ‘native’ on your cell phone.

      If you want to get really cool, you can use Locale with the Google Voice Plug-In. This will automatically set which of your phones ring when someone calls your Google Voice number based on where you are.

      So, for instance, when I am at work, my work phone and cell phone ring. When I am at home, my home and cell ring. When I am in the car, just my cells rings. It is all done automatically via Locale. Really, REALLY cool.

  • Nightin

    im using an htc tp2, but I don’t have a texting plan. is there a way I can get my google voice sms messages to appear in my phone’s inbox without having to get a text from google voice because that way i’m paying for a text anyways. Is there also a way for me to send messages from my phone in the same way ?

    Thanks!!!

    • Caleb

      @Nightin:

      If you had an Android phone, yes. The google voice app allows you to send and receive SMS messages using just the data plan, not actual texts.

      Unfortunately, I’m not aware of a way to do the same thing on the Windows Mobile powered TP2. It has been a while since I’ve worked in the WinMo world, so, I’m not saying that the capability doesn’t exist… I just don’t know how to do it myself.

  • Enesha Fairluck

    For the TP2 (and any WinMo device) you can get the program OneDialer. Look on the web for it. It’s not the greatest interface, but it works 🙂

    Also for getting the 406, 402 or other ac’s numbers they add for this, you can try sending a txt message to the landline from google voice. The message will not go through, and will bounce back. The bounce will come from the forwarding number I *believe* 🙂

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