Finally, Google Voice Natively On The iPhone, Via Sprint.

It took me until today to realize, and then confirm, that I can finally have an iPhone and still use Google Voice natively. Via Sprint.

Background – in 2009 I bailed on the iPhone. Too many AT&T issues. And more importantly, I ported my mobile number to Google Voice. If I wanted to use that phone number with a mobile phone (and I did), I needed a phone that integrated with Google Voice natively. Apple didn’t allow that.

Google Voice is an awesome service because it allows me to set which phones ring whenever someone calls that number. If you call me on my mobile number it might ring one of many cell phones that I have, or Skype (via SkypeIn), or my home phone, or on Gmail. I can send and receive text messages via my browser, and voicemails are auto-transcribed (which can be hilarious).

I could still use Google Voice with an iPhone. Calls can easily be forwarded to any phone, including an iPhone, and the Google Voice iPhone app lets you place calls as well. But without native integration into the address book and, crucially, the call log, you always have to open the Google Voice app to make any calls. You can’t simply call someone back from your call log, which is a good percentage of my outgoing calls.

So I went all Android in 2009 and have been there ever since. My current phone is the original Nexus. I still think that’s the best Android phone on the market today, and it’s nearly two years old.

Anyhow, earlier this year Google announced deal with Sprint that allows any Sprint customer to make their phone number also a Google Voice number. Or, if you already use Google Voice, you can make the phone number associated with the phone the same number.

Bingo. No app needed. And it works with the new iPhone 4S, too, I’m told from someone at Google (I’ll check it myself tomorrow). Google doesn’t need Apple’s permission to take over the address book and call log. They’ve moved down the stack to control the device’s actual phone number.

What an amazing world we live in. Next week, fingers crossed, I’ll be using an iPhone with Google Voice natively. The cherry on top is that AT&T will be nowhere in sight. Sure, in a few months I’ll be ranting (again) about how awful Sprint is in general. But first, the honeymoon.

Best of all, the iPhone v. Google Voice religious war MG Siegler and I have been engaged in for years is over. Instead, the churches just merged. What a perfect video to capture the moment.

34 thoughts on “Finally, Google Voice Natively On The iPhone, Via Sprint.

  1. Phil jackson says:

    I was a sprint android user and recently went to the 4S. The one thing that doesn’t work like I want is when sms gets intercepted by imessage. In that case I miss sms on my chrome ext and have to look at my phone. Outbound sms via google voice works fine but if apple detects 2 iOS 5 devices it sends follow up messages via imessage. Not the end of the world but not “perfect” like android was

  2. Awesome…and you mean “sight” 🙂

  3. Tony Camilli says:

    Sprint has to do this because their network is so bad. If you can make calls over WiFi, you won’t be making any calls. I never thought AT&T was that bad. Probably because I came to AT&T (Cingular at the time) from Sprint.

  4. Brent Klauck says:

    Arrington, have you been on Sprint before? If you have, I’m sure it was a while ago, and things have changed. I’ve been on Sprint for 14 years and have had no problems. The coverage is top notch (yes, even compared to Verizon, since Sprint roams on Verizon’s towers), data is faster than Verizon’s, and reliability is higher than AT&T. In regards to customer service, its a shot in the dark. Sometimes you get someone great, sometimes they suck. But a couple tries and you can usually get whatever you want. Interested to see how your experiences go.

  5. Tony, I think you are mistaken about what Google Voice is (most who haven’t used it are). It isn’t an end-to-end VoIP service, so when you place a call from an iPhone using Google Voice you are still using your carrier’s voice network and with that, your allocated minutes. The trick is that the number you’re actually calling (you see this if you use third party Google Voice apps on iOS/webOS/WP7) is another Google-owned number, such that they can route over their IP network to a place where the outbound analog call is as cheap as possible for them.

    It can be partial VoIP where someone calls your number from their phone, and Google forwards the call to the gmail tab in your browser. You can also place calls from the browser.

  6. Josh says:

    “Bingo. No app needed. And it works with the new iPhone 4S, too, I’m told from someone at Google (I’ll check it myself tomorrow).”

    Call me silly, but why not test it and then write about it?

  7. Gues(t) Again says:

    This will be an interesting experiment to watch unfold.

    IMO, moving from a Nexus to an iPhone is taking one-giant-leap backwards.

    Especially, when you could have a Nexus Galaxy now. The fact you aren’t evolving from Nexus being the best communication tool, to Nexus being the best mobile payment tool, is a bit retro. Locking yourself into only approved/censored apps is equally quaint, but, backwards.

    Let us know how it unfolds. But, if you’ve ever run Google Plus on a Nexus; along with Voice, Talk, etc., I think you’ll be disappointed by the iPhone. The rest of us are moving to mobile payments coupled with communication and sticking with Nexus…

  8. Fred Grott says:

    Mike insites an inciteful riot mimicking Mary Rambin skills in spelling and grammar

  9. mike says:

    Does MMS work? Because normal Google Voice doesn’t support it, that’s been a major reason I don’t rely on GV 100% for everything I do.

    Also once in a while I get a call that drops somewhere between GV and my phone:
    (other person) -> (google voice) x (my physical phone)

    • They have actually started implementing MMS for users with a Sprint number. The only problem I’ve ever had with the service is not answering on time, because my phone will continue ringing even after GV has stopped ringing to the phone.

  10. Micah says:

    As nice as native GV is on Sprint phones, you lose certain functionalities and benefits from being on Sprint’s network.

    1. Sprint’s everything plan includes unlimited mobile to mobile calls to any US mobile provider using Sprint’s network. In my experience, Sprint treats GV as a landline number but calls made FROM GV are not shown to be made from Sprint network and thus don’t qualify for the unlimited mobile-to-mobile. I believe GV allows free calls to any US and Canadian number, but does this affect your overall anytime minutes if you don’t have unlimited anytime minutes?

    2. GV does not yet support global MMS and is only starting to slowly roll it out for Sprint users only.

    There might be another that I can’t think of but these are two major drawbacks that I’m sure will affect many people. Just thought I’d give you a heads up.

    • Micah says:

      3. Oh, and with all GV calls I make, there’s a greater lag than when I make calls just from the Sprint network on my phone. It can make for a frustrating conversation. Does this lag improve once you go to native GV? Just thought I’d throw that in.

      • Ryan S. says:

        My last iPhone was with AT&T. With AT&T I used the # they gave me for voice and a Google Voice # for SMS. All my text messages were sent and replied to through Gmail on desktop & iphone

        Now that I have moved to Sprint for the 4S I am missing the cloud-like SMS service GV provided.

        My question is if you do port your Google Voice # to Sprint can your text messages be delivered in both your Gmail account & to the iMessage app?

        I’m a big user of Siri and thus I am thinking I need to use iMessage to send texts through Siri???

        • Micah says:

          As far as I know, GV SMS works exactly the same whether it’s an external number or whether you port your Sprint phone number. You should have the same SMS functionality either way. I don’t use an iPhone so I’m not sure how it works with iMessage.

    • Diego says:

      Your first point above is incorrect. I have been using Sprint with GVoice for about 2 weeks and have 0 landline minutes used. All my minutes have been mobile unlimited.

      I remember having this same concern, but I read in the GVoice/Sprint terms that they count as mobile unlimited, and I have proven this.

  11. Josh B says:

    I’m in the same boat. Was on a Nexus One, ported my T-Mobile number to Google Voice, and just got the 4S on Sprint. Only downside (in addition to MMS) is that you can’t use the iPhone’s visual voicemail; you have to call (and thus have a connection). I’ve been thinking about porting my GV number to Sprint, and then setting up their GV integration from the other end to see if that changes anything. (I’m betting it won’t)….

    Also wish my iOS messaging app would sync with outgoing messages I send from GV Chrome extension. But perhaps I’m getting picky now. Mike would you mind getting someone at Google or Sprint to go on the record saying *specifically* how they’re approaching the GV/Sprint “special relationship” on iOS?

  12. Brad Mallow says:

    I’m afraid the bright, shiny future in which we’d both like to live is not quite here yet.

    I had my previous phone integrated with GV through Sprint. I activated my new 4S and couldn’t receive any voicemails. I called Sprint and was told flat out, “you know that Google Voice isn’t compatible with the iPhone, right?” I went to my GV settings and deactivated my Sprint number which has put my GV account into a strange and buggy limbo where I can’t access anything. Proceed with caution :/

    • Bozzy says:

      You believed a Sprint rep? All you had to do was follow the instructions on the Google Voice website for enabling voicemail for that forwarding phone.

  13. Great to hear native Google Voice landing also on iPhone. However, I disagree on Nexus being the best Android phone out there. I switched a few months back from iPhone 4 to Samsung Galaxy S2. The original Nexus has absolutely no chance against the S2, which by the way matches the spec of iPhone 4S.

  14. Sprint community is reporting data upload speeds of less than 0.5 mbps on iPhone 4s.

    What’s been your experience Mike?

  15. Pablo Mac says:

    Anxiously awaiting this on Verizon!

  16. This just gets to the point that networks are still judge more or less by voice, not data. I can’t say whether Sprint is good or not but they certainly recognize the issue. This is wha the CTO said recently:

    “Voice is becoming less relevant in the planning phase of the network. Our focus is on data-optimised networks. That said, people in the U.S. still judge the quality of a network by the voice quality…they’re very sensitive to dropped calls.”

  17. I’ve been using Sprint with Google Voice for a year or so now, actually made me stick with Sprint when my last contract ran out, now I have unlimited data with an iPhone 4S, best of all worlds. Plus I love using my laptop for texting, calling and voicemails.

    • Josh B says:

      @Kimball does it make a difference what your native phone # is? I ported to GV a while ago; trying to figure out if I should port it to Sprint. Are there any advantages you know of?


  18. I recently also ported my mobile number to Google Voice for the same reasons. Good to hear about the Sprint thing because I have also been thinking of getting an iPhone (from Android). The only downside is that I hear that Sprint has bad coverage. Would love to an opinion on Sprint from others!

  19. Michael Arrington, I am seriously considering switching to an iPhone 4S on Sprint, and this post is making me consider that even more because of Google Voice.

    I would disagree with you on one thing — the Nexus One isn’t the best Android phone right now. It can’t get Ice Cream Sandwich, and it has so little internal memory, it’s very easy to max out of space for apps — even with an SD card. I should know, I have a Nexus One, too! Probably the Galaxy Nexus would be the best Android phone.

    I’m going to check it out after I receive my Kindle Fire and decide if I want to be a Mac/Android person or start mixing Amazondroid/iPhone or even go iPhone/iPad.

    The new iOS has a lot of the things with Android I wouldn’t have given up sooner, and Google Voice is a sort of religion in itself if you text and call a lot from different phones and devices as you and I do.

  20. says:

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    On The iPhone, Via Sprint. Uncrunched, I actually was looking
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