My Near Ideal Telephone Setup – circa October 2009

Configuring iPhone, Skype and Google Voice – for me!

My friends know that I truly do hate the telephone. But I’ve come across a set of configuration options, upgrades, and settings combining my iPhone, Skype and Google Voice that seems to work well for me. Here are the details – sorry it’s complicated, but it’s “good enough” working for me!

I really like Google Voice for the voice mail transcription that it does and forwards to me by email. I hate listening to voice mails – much prefer to READ them! So, my preferred destination for calls I don’t answer is to have them end up in Google Voice and have them recorded and TRANSCRIBED.

Depending upon what I’m doing during the workday, I may be more (or less) enabled to take inbound calls. When I’m heads down and writing, the phone is ignored. When I’m researching and browsing, the phone is enabled.

My normal very public phone number goes to my iPhone 3GS – and I answer it on the iPhone if I’m out and about or in the office and expecting a call from the caller who’s calling. Otherwise, I frankly tend to ignore it. If I’m in the middle of trying to work/concentrate, I don’t like random inbound calls!

If, on the other hand, I’m working in my office – I prefer to work with a USB headset that’s plugged not into my iPhone but, rather, plugged into my MacBook Pro. I want any incoming calls routed from my iPhone to my MacBook Pro-connected headset. When I’m not chatting on the phone, I can be listening to Radio Paradise or iTunes, etc.

To accomplish that, I run Skype on my MacBook Pro – and, when I’m in this mode, manually setup my iPhone to Call Forward to my SkypeIn number. This is the kind of thing you do once in the morning when you get it. All calls to my public number will then trigger a Skype pop-up window on my Mac and I can immediately answer them with my headset on – or choose to ignore them. For this to work, I had to buy a SkypeIn number from Skype (you can get 50% off the $60/year cost of a SkypeIn number with an Unlimited Subscription – see below)

The other advantage of this configuration is that I can make all of my outgoing calls from Skype on my MacBook Pro by just keeping my headset on and making a call when I need to. I’ve set my Skype CallerID setting so that the CallerID that callers see is my same as my normal public number. That way, they know it’s me calling. To do this, I also signed up for Unlimited US & Canada calling from Skype ($2.95/month).

What about my voicemail?

As I said at the beginning, I really prefer Google Voice as my voice mail service – for the transcription/email it provides. I just need to (eventually) get my calls to them – when I’m not around.

So, to accomplish that, I’ve setup Skype to call forward to my Google Voice number (a secret number that I don’t need to reveal). If I’m logged out of Skype or ignore an incoming call on Skype, Skype forwards the call to Google Voice where the voicemail is captured and emailed to me. Note that this isn’t exactly what Google Voice features – which is call routing to multiple phones at the same time. I’m not interested in that feature – and have turned it off. All I want out of Google Voice right now is voice mail recording and transcription with email!

The one wrinkle in this approach is that if I’ve turned off Call Forwarding on my iPhone, it all stops there. The iPhone will ring and if I don’t answer the call, it will go to voicemail there – not at Google Voice. The voicemail won’t be transcribed and emailed to me – I’ll have to listen to it instead on my iPhone. The flip side is that if I really just want to ignore the phone, I put my iPhone into Call Forwarding mode – and it’s quiet and peaceful!

So, this approach isn’t perfect. It’s also quite complex – but I think it demonstrates what I think a common use case for professionals might be. Let’s hope in the future that there’s a better solution to all of this – that doesn’t require three separate services, multiple upgrade options, etc. Meanwhile, it’s working for me – sort of!

Lately, I’ve been talking to lots of folks trying make mobile payments work. How about just making the friggin’ phone work – for folks like me?

4 replies on “My Near Ideal Telephone Setup – circa October 2009”

Nice post. I recently switched to Google Voice as well. Setting the caller ID of SkypeOut to the Google Voice number is a nice touch I hadn’t thought of.
There are two issues that I am still struggling with. One is that using a phone number to get calls from Google Voice to the laptop seems wrong. Using VoiP directly seems hard though. Second, I’d prefer to have a physical handset at home as well in case my laptop is off. I have tried a few (I own a Belkin Wifi Phone) but so far have not found one that works for me.

As always, you are surfing the bow wave!
One issue I’ve encountered is that you can’t have Skype display your Google Voice number as your Caller ID. It’s a known problem with the way Skype handles CallerID verification.
It’s really too bad, because I’ve taken the opposite approach to yours: I now use GV as my primary number, and reserve my cell number for a few people to call directly. I’d love to be able to call in and out via Skype.
This one is all on Skype, by the way. GV is doing things correctly on their backend.

This is an almost perfect post and I have a similar set up.
I’m not sure why Apple overlooked this, but there a complete lack of options to set the various call forwarding features. e.g. call forward busy and call forward no answser.
To set these you have to punch in the following codes on the keypad and then hit “Call”. What this does is tell the telephone switch (at AT&T) what to do with your call. If programmed correctly the iPhone (at least the 3GS) will confirm it with a message.
Forward All (this one is on the iPhone already)
Activate: *21*[destination]*11#
Cancel & Retain: #21*11#
Re-establish: *21*11#
Cancel & Forget: ##21*11#
Status: *#21*11#
Forward If Busy:
Activate: *67*[destination]*11#
Cancel & Retain: #67*11#
Re-establish: *67*11#
Cancel & Forget: ##67*11#
Status: *#67*11#
Forward if no answer:
Activate: *61*[dest]*11*[sec]#
Cancel & Retain: #61*11#
Re-establish: *61*11#
Cancel & Forget: ##61*11#
Status: *#61*11#
If Unreachable:
Activate: *62*[destination]*11#
Cancel & Retain: #62*11#
Re-establish: *62*11#
Cancel & Forget: ##62*11#
Status: *#62*11#

I liked the direction of your solution. I use SKYPE for Instant Messaging and have Skype IN and Skype out but I like GIZMO for my GV client.
Gizmo is a free SIP soft phone which offers dial out for about half of the cost of Skype. I can use Gizmo on my Blackberry but I think I am getting rid of the cell account and considering an Linux Netbook with a built in air card from Verizon wireless.
I prefer the Android platform over Apple’s proprietary IPHONE. I am converting over to open source. Watch HTC for their Android 2.0 based “Passion” smart phone. It is great platform for M-Commerce.

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