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?
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!