Google Voice bungles a Southwest Airlines reminder

A Southwest Airlines automated system calls me after gate changes. I ignore this call when I’m at the gate, because 20 people drawing their phones near-simultaneously means something’s up… I don’t need my own version of the phone call.

Here’s the missed call transcript from Google Voice:

Hello Hello. This is Southwest Airlines calling with a flight status update, 4 Nikki, Arthur Edwards. We’d like to let you know that there’s been a gay change for Flight Number 235 departing from. Okay Hon your new gate assignment is gay. […]

Useful? Yeah, I moved my bags. But hon, you did NOT have to go there.

Full audio & text at Google Voice.

Google Voice with your existing number (the missing how-to guide)

Illustration: Clippy tries to help get your number forwarding configured, but is just too entertained by poor transcription of voicemail to offer other options. I previously wrote about how it’s possible to use Google Voice with your existing mobile number, as a no-answer/busy handler for that number, like YouMail.

On October 26th Google added a set of helper screens to get your mobile number configured, although they’re buried in settings hell. This is, to the best of my knowledge, how you get it done via the new helpers:

  1. Go to
  2. Click “Settings”
  3. Click “Edit” on an existing mobile number.
  4. Click “Show advanced settings”
  5. Under “Forwarding Options” click “Activate”
  6. Select that mobile number’s carrier and click “Continue.”
  7. The steps you need to configure no-answer/busy forwarding are shown. (Google can’t do this one for you.)

No, this is not the same as if you could “port” an existing number to Google Voice.

But that hasn’t been critical, as all I want is web/email-accessible voicemail, which my carrier doesn’t provide on my current mobile hardware, and this Google Voice configuration delivers. If that’s all you want too, well, here you go.

If you have better steps, or Google’s shuffled the user interface around again and these steps no longer work, please let me know in comments.

Working around Google Voice number portability concerns

In July I wrote about Google Voice’s inadequacy as a personal cell voicemail system: YouMail is a better solution for me on a number of points.

The biggest nail in the coffin are N+1 live phone numbers to use Google Voice, when YouMail works with N, and only 1 number will get callers to the Google Voice system. There’s no silver bullet here other than porting a current number, which I hear Google’s working on, but I expect several bullets will be needed (who know how carriers & regulators will accidentally collude to mess up Google’s aim.)

But I did some more digging, and found that for YouMail-equivalence (except for MP3 email delivery) you can use your current numbers with Google Voice & at least the Google Voicemail system until something better comes along. Here’s an honest-to-goodness, you-can-do-this-right-now, workaround:

  • Don’t give anyone your Google Voice number! Yes, I know your new Google number is shiny. Just think, your number’s reclaimed from failed suburbia and still has that “partially finished subdivision” smell on it. It’ll help you cope.
  • Turn on “Do Not Disturb” on your Google Voice account.
  • Set your Google Voice number as your no-answer/busy transfer number for your other numbers.

Step 1 is easy, I won’t explain it any further.

Step 2: In the Google Voice web application, go to “Settings”, and under the “General” tab, enable “Do Not Disturb”:


This causes calls to your Google Voice number to go immediately to Google Voice voicemail, avoiding any audio disturbances, temporal displacements, or painful feedback loops.

Step 3:  On Verizon Wireless, I type *71 immediately followed by my (10-digit) Google Voice number, then hit send.  Wait for confirmation tone, then hang up. I believe the AT&T equivalent is  *61, but don’t blame me if that toasts your iPhone; I didn’t get a chance to test it. T-Mobile, Sprint, Cricket, and other carrier folks… you’re on your own. Help me out if you like.

In closing, this lets you get around lack of number portability for some scenarios, specifically replacing existing voicemail systems with Google Voice. Hopefully this is helpful to you.

(I owe Engadget Mobile for reminding me no-answer/busy transfer is also how YouMail works, and so is a workaround here.)