Why You Should Use Google Voice as a Digital Nomad
Google Voice offers the ability to make and receive calls entirely free between both the United States and Canada. You can also send and receive text messages and SMS with anyone between the two countries. Many times you may find yourself outside of the country and paying a premium to call back to North America with your local line.
Google Voice when used with the Google Hangouts application can receive and make calls over WiFi to both countries for absolutely no charge from anywhere in the world.
This is a great way to keep up with business arrangements, friends and family in north america while living as an expat or digital nomad. Setting up the service is extremely simple. All that is required is a Google account that is tied to North America. You can either set up the service on Google’s website or by downloading the application to your Android or iOS smartphone. The setup process is adequately outlined on their site here.
Will Google Voice Charge Me?
In some instances where calling is forwarded or tied to your phone, you may be charged if you are not on WiFi when initiating a call. The best way to avoid additional charges for calling to north america is to simply disable call forwarding to your number and remove your main number from Google Voice entirely. You will still be able to use the Hangouts app to make and receive calls, obtain voicemail, send and receive text messages and more while connected to WiFi.
I have an iPhone, Will That Work?
If you have an iPhone the Google Hangouts app is integrated with CallKit allowing for traditional answering. This means any call you receive to your iPhone will appear as a regular phone call that can be answered normally. In the past Google Hangouts had been limited to a simple notification that required a phone unlock to answer, which can be quite cumbersome. This is thankfully no longer the case. One minor drawback is that Siri can not be used to dial out through Hangouts yet, at least I have yet to get it to work in my testing.
Contacting Numbers Outside of North America
If you’re interested in calling or texting numbers not originating in the United States or Canada the fees for such calls can be found here. Keep in mind that it is often the case that local plans for such calling can be had for much cheaper elsewhere when compared to competing international plans that originate in the United States and Canada, this includes some Google Voice rates.
Benefits for the Digital Nomad
As a Digital Nomad or expat you will be able to keep in contact with your friends, family and keep up with your business arrangements with those located in both the United States and Canada for no charge over WiFi. The setup is easy and obtaining a number is fast. There really is no reason not to do it. Having a backup number that will work over any WiFi network may prove very useful. There are many times where you will arrive in a country and may lack a cellular connection but find WiFi present to use. You may also want to read more about the importance of using VPN over WiFi.
Drawbacks for the Digital Nomad
The biggest drawback is that Google Voice has yet to scale beyond north america. This means customers with google accounts in other regions of the world will have to find other options. If you do not have a Google account tied to the United States or Canada you may be able to find other VoIP services in your area that offer comparable functionality. Unfortunately it is also the case that Google Voice does not allow calling to emergency lines such as 911 at the time of this writing.
The service may not be sufficient for you to use as a total replacement depending on who you must contact and what your budget is. You will still be able to use it as a backup in cases where your main service line fails to have you covered. Redundancy reduces the chances for mishap.
Final Google Voice Details
Overall Google Voice offers a very good service that doubles down in being both useful and free of charge if you’re just using it to keep in contact with people in North America. I have used a Google Voice number for a business and personal line in the past. Their service has been so useful that I’ve actually contemplated paying for it with Google Suite but have yet to justify that for my personal use case.