Most cellphone carriers provide a feature allowing you a certain number of contacts that you can call, on any network, for free, anytime. So what happens when you team up this feature with your Google Voice number?
In yesterday’s Tips Box post, one reader used his cellphone provider’s ‘My Circle’ feature to make unlimited free calls with Google Voice.
The idea is that if you only use Google Voice to send and receive calls—and you set Google Voice so that it only displays your Google Voice number when it rings, all of your calls will be free, and you may never need to use another minute again. Each carrier is different, so were looking at what each plan looks like, and how to use it with Google Voice to get free calls.
For this to work at all, head to Google Voice’s Call Settings page and make sure Caller ID is set to Display my Google Voice number. (See the screenshot) Then just add your Google Voice number to your carrier’s respective friends and family plan.
Verizon’s plan is called Friends & Family, and it allows you to pick 5 or 10 numbers (for individual and family plans, respectively), that you can call for free—even landlines. This deal comes with either the Family SharePlan with 1400 Anytime Minutes or more, or on the Single-Line Plan with 900 Anytime Minutes or more. If youre not on one of these plans, you might have to do a little math to see if upgrading for free calls is worth it. To add numbers to your Friends & Family list, just sign in to My Verizon.
AT&T just rolled out their feature, called A-List, and it is almost exactly the same as Verizons. 5 or 10 numbers, depending on your plan, which has to be at least 900 minutes for individuals and 1400 for families. With AT&T you still have Rollover, too, so you get to keep the minutes that you save with Google Voice (in theory, at least—although, that hardly seems like it matters if youre not using any in the first place). You can update your list online, through your myWireless account on AT&Ts web site.
T-Mobile’s plan, myFaves, is a little bit simpler. If you have a plan that costs over $49.99 a month, you qualify for myFaves, which allows you 5 numbers that you can call for free. The best part about T-Mobiles plan, as opposed to Verizon and AT&Ts, is that if you are on a family plan, each person gets 5 numbers to themselves – they dont have to share 10 with the rest of the family (this is nice if you have a big family; of course, we only need 1 number, and thats Google Voice). To get myFaves and edit your list, you just need to log into your My T-Mobile account.
Sprint is the biggest wild card in this situation. Sprint, unlike the other carriers, does not heavily advertise their plan, called Pick 3. In fact, its not mentioned anywhere on their web site. Word of the plan has spread through internet word-of-mouth, however, though there are a lot of conflicting messages on how to get it, or whether it still exists. So at the moment, the jury seems out on this one—try calling Sprint and see if you can get them to sign you up, and let us know in the comments what did or didnt work for you.
That brings me to the last part: We at Lifehacker are but a few men and women, and we haven’t been able to exhaustively test whether this Google Voice trick works on various carriers. We’ve seen lots of anecdotal evidence on the internet and from our readers, at least for AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, but many of you mentioned in the Tips Box post that it didn’t work when you tried it, so we’re enlisting your help testing this out.
If you have a Google Voice account and qualify for one of the above plans, try adding your Voice number and see if the minutes show up on your bill—and let us know about it in the comments! Well update the post once we have some definitive information on what does and doesnt work.