Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tip 66: Stop paying for text messaging

At the end of August I sent out one of those classic emails with this subject line: New number. I hadn't done that since 2003 when I graduated from college, became financially independent, and therefore took myself off my parents' cell phone bill. I thought I would take that 2003 cell number to my grave, but then I discovered a new trick, thanks to Matt, my tech guru. I told my friends I would later explain via blog, so, here goes...

Tip 66: If you have a smartphone, sign up for Google Voice. The primary benefit? You can stop paying for text messaging today.

Matt took the plunge with Google Voice well before me, participating in a little experiment that got us to where we are today. At first I didn't get the point of Google Voice. The way Matt used it, it seemed like nothing more than a way to get transcripts of your voicemails, and these transcripts are comically poor. Then Matt told me there was a way to save money with Google Voice. I was all ears when he suggested we cancel our texting plan.

Google Voice shows up on the Droid as a program with an icon, just like all other applications.

Of course, there is a downside, and in order to use Google Voice to replace text messaging on your phone you have to change your phone number. So, as I did at the end of August, you have to email your contacts, letting them know you have a new number.

To counter this one obvious drawback, though, there are plenty of benefits:

1) Google Voice groups all texts from one conversation together, much like the default texting program on the Droid. This makes your texts read more like an IM chat than a series of separate texts.

2) Recordings of voicemails show up in the Google Voice program as well, and all you have to do is click on the play button beneath the transcript of the voicemail. This cuts out a couple steps normally required to access your voicemails in the Droid.

3) You can also access Google Voice from your computer. You can make calls and send texts through the Google Voice website. It gives you one more way to be in touch if you're away from your phone.

4) Even though the Google Voice voicemail transcripts are notoriously shoddy, you have the option to allow them to show up in your email. So, if you're like me and you often don't have your phone in front of you during the day, you can kill two birds with one stone when you check your email only to discover that you also have a new voicemail waiting for you.

5) You can use your Google Voice account to bring together your various phone numbers and program which ones operate at different locations at different times or based on the person who is calling. Although this is not something I've tried because I really only have one phone number, it might be something worth trying if you're like many of my friends who carry around their personal cell phones and their work Blackberries everywhere they go.

Once I had a few weeks to try out Google Voice and see that I was still receiving my texts and voicemails, Matt and I finally canceled our texting plans. We don't actually text that much, so we had plans that accounted for 200 texts each per month -- the least amount we could get -- and I know I only send about 30 texts a month. Not paying for texts only saves us $10 per month, but when I consider that we're saving $120 per year, it makes that email I sent in August seem like a small price to pay. Plus, this is one more way that I am keeping Verizon in check and continuing my quest to stop getting ripped off.

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