Recently, I was sitting in a cafe in St Thomas and I was very frustrated to learn that even though I could browse the internet on their fast, free wifi, I was not able to call or text without spending huge amounts of money because I was outside the continental US. This struck me as insane since St Thomas is a US territory, and my phone supports wifi calling. I was determined to solve this problem when I returned home.
I landed on Google Voice as a great, mostly free solution to this and many other issues I had with the classic phone plan scenario.
Moving my number from T-Mobile to Google Voice cost me a one-time fee of $20. I was surprised when the process completed, and I received a text; the notification sound came not just from my phone, but also my laptop and desktop. I had not even considered the fact that my phone number was now accessible from any internet-connected device. I soon discovered I could not only send and receive texts, but even make and receive phone calls on any of my Android, Windows or Chrome devices.
I knew immediately that my relationship with connectedness was already different.
I have looked for a long time for a great tool that lets me send and receive my texts from a web browser, and there are lots of options. I had always used Mighty Text. The problem that all of these tools share is that they are extensions of the phone and not of the phone number. Your phone has to be on, with reception and a phone plan in order for them to work.
Google Voice provides a direct connection to my phone number from any web browser, regardless of the status of my cell phone. My phone can be off, broken, or overdue and I am totally unaffected. I can use any of my devices to call or text whenever I want. And I find that the interface I use most is the new hangouts web app. This beautiful interface provides exactly what was missing from the kind of experience I want to have with texting and with my phone number.
I even did an experiment and turned off my mobile data for a week in Portland, Oregon; relying only on free public wifi for all my calls and texts. The only problem was when I was on transit, no wifi. I ended up keeping my unlimited data plan with T-Mobile, but I managed to get it down to just $10/month.
I cover the story of how I did that in another post.