Google Voice Don’t Talk Southern

Hey Daddy this. Aunt Nancy, I was just returning your call, had a rental exactly when you called earlier in the couldn’t talk, but get back with me when you get a minute. Okay. That.

Just What is Google Voice

Google Voice is a new twist on plain old telephone service that integrates land and mobile services for you. A single number to ring them all (with apologies to J. R. R. Tolkin).

How Dave Got Google Voice

My iPhone 4 had been off contract for several months but was in good condition (Nick hadn’t taken a taste of this one) so I was free to do something without giving AT&T my first born male child (joke’s on them, I don’t have one to give). I considered purchasing a new iPhone but what to do with the old one that is still going strong? And buying a new one just forges new chains to AT&T or Verizon, pick your lesser of two evils.

Then I stumbled across the Straight Talk iPhone 5 announcement. “Hummm, what is Straight Talk?” Straight Talk is the largest carrier in the Americas with service from the Arctic Circle to Terra Del Fuego. They are a Mobile Virtual Network Operator. They lease capacity wholesale from AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon. My iPhone is an AT&T phone. It has a SIM slot and is built for GSM frequencies so it can function on AT&T Straight Talk with HSPA+ 3g++ data service.

The folks at Cult of Mac have instructions for setting up an iPhone on Straight Talk So I ordered a SIM (by mistake, two of them) and decided to give Straight Talk a try. Activation and setup went smoothly following the instructions in the booklet. The only hard part was popping my AT&T SIM out using a paper clip.

Once I had confirmed Voice, SMS, and data, I put the AT&T SIM back in to file for divorce from AT&T by transferring the number to Google. A day later, the transfer was complete and I configured Google Voice to ring my new mobile number and my home number when anyone calls my old Sprint, then AT&T, now Google number.

Google Voice Features

Google Voice offers incoming telephone service and, using the Google Voice App, outgoing telephone service from your Android or iPhone mobile. The application offers visual voice mail at the web site and on your Android or iPhone mobile. Google visual voice mail is similar to the iPhone service. It shows each waiting message, no calling to listen to a list of messages. You select the message to play it. But Google upstaged Apple by transcribing the messages to text. It shows them in Google Voice, forwards them by SMS, and forwards them by E-mail.

Google Voice also provides the slickest voice mail on the planet. If you pick up, you answer normally. If the call rolls to voice mail, you can pick up, optionally record the call, or forward it to voice mail.

One More Thing

Google Voice can be configured to black list callers, including telemarketers. And it collects everything you need to file a complaint. Great for the 2016 elections!

The Bill

Straight Talk offers “unlimited” voice, text, and data for $50 per month, $30 less than AT&T for exactly the same service. You join Jack Bauer in the land of “burner” prepaid cell phones. Each month you have to visit Straight Talk to add another month, 3 months, year, or enable auto-refill. If you subscribe for longer than a month, you get a discount. Since you brought your own phone, Straight Talk is not financing your phone for you.

Why I Left AT&T

When you go off contract, they keep billing you the $25/month they were sending to Apple to pay for your phone. As long as you stay on your original service level, they keep collecting that extra money. Enough of it that you can buy an unlocked iPhone and come out several hundred dollars ahead. If you’re an impoverished student, carrier financing of your phone is helpful. If you’re a retiree, you want people’s hands out of your pockets so I sacked AT&T even though I had not experienced horrid service from them. The value wasn’t there, especially with them taking $25 a month to keep unlimited data for my next phone.

When It’s Time for a New Phone

Buy a new AT&T compatible phone unlocked from Apple. Put the Straight Talk SIM in it. Begin talking. You can get older refurbished phones at a nice discount at the Apple Online Store. If you’re willing to wait until world wide rollout is complete, you can get a new unlocked version of the current phone.

What, No Verizon

Currently (2013), this trick only works for AT&T phones that use a SIM. You may be able to do the same with a Verizon phone but the technique relies on all of a phone’s carrier identity being on a SIM. Verizon iPhone has a SIM slot but it works on a subset of frequencies supporting voice in Europe.


All US carriers are moving to Long Term Evolution data (LTE). And there’s a voice variant. As this happens, all US phones and eventually all phones world wide will use a common set of protocols. There will still be differences in spectrum from country to country but the goal is to have a common pool of frequencies supported world wide plus additional channels in the larger countries. When this happens, Verizon and Sprint folk can join the fold.

The Opening Quote

Earlier Sunday, I’d called Aunt Nancy. She had house guests and asked to call back. When she did, I was slow answering when 2 cordless, the cordless base, and my iPhone all began ringing at once. Chaos. I missed picking up so the call went to voice mail. Google’s Elbonian slave labor transcribed the call producing the result above. Hilarious but enough of it right to fix it up from context. If the text is a hopeless garble, the speech is still available for playback. Oh, and Google can archive messages for a good long time. Be careful what you say on my voice mail. It will be in the Google way back machine long after we both are buried.