Using Google Voice in Canada

I’ve wanted to use Google Voice for a long time now. Being in Canada however it’s not available. While certainly not supported or as full-featured as using it in the USA, there are straightforward ways to get it working if you’re in Canada. Here’s how I did it.

Get a US-Based Phone Number

When you sign up with Google Voice in the next step, it verifies you in part by calling a phone number and having you enter a verification code. I used a Skype Online Number to do this which costs $20 for three months or $70 for an entire year. I signed up for a three-month plan which I may make use of  for an upcoming trip to the USA (or not!) In any case, I got the US-based phone number that I needed.

Note that it may be possible to get an Alberta 403 area code using an alternate service such as TellFi. While I have not verified or exploited this, there appears to be a loophole in Google’s US number verification service that allows a 403 number to be used.

Sign Up for Google Voice

Unless you happen to be in the US at the time or know how to set up a proxy service so you appear to be calling from the US, I suggest downloading and running the Tor Browser. This nifty little tool makes you appear to be browsing from the US. Once you have it running, navigate to http://google.com/voice and sign up. It’s straightforward enough. Make sure you enter your US-based phone number when prompted. Google Voice will automatically be set to forward calls to this number, but that’s not especially useful so you can uncheck it or even delete it altogether in Google Voice’s settings.

At this point you have a Google Voice phone number for the state/area that you selected. If you call it you’ll get sent to voice mail. Voice Mail messages will be transcribed and emailed to you for playback.

Install the Google Voice App

Receiving email is nice, but the Google Voice app provides a much nicer integration. Even when using a proxy, the Play Store will not allow you to install this app to your Canadian devices. No problem, simply browse to http://goo.gl/SUsuc and use a QR Code reader to download the latest version to your phone. Once it’s downloaded, go to your Downloads app and install the APK by clicking on it. There’s a quick setup procedure, then you’re in business. Now you have Visual Voice Mail on your Android phone!

Limitations

Based on my limited experience with Google Voice, it really doesn’t do much for us Canadians right now. There’s no integration with your existing phone numbers which sucks. What it does do is give you a US-based number at which you can be reached, though since you can’t forward THAT to a Canadian number, it’s of limited use. You can forward your existing phone to your Google Voice number (instead of to your carrier’s voice mail) to effectively give you Visual Voice Mail, but modern voice mail is pretty simple to use and in the case of Rogers (and possibly others) I’m quickly sent a transcribed version of my messages over SMS which usually precludes any need to call in to hear messages anyway. You can’t make or receive calls while you’re in Canada, but if you’re travelling in the US and have access to WiFi, it would probably work great.

If there’s anything I’ve missed that makes Google Voice can do, please let me know and I’ll update this guide.

Why Isn’t Google Voice Available in Canada?

This has bothered a lot of people for a long time now. What I don’t get is why a US-based company like TellFi can set up a similar service in Canada but a behemoth like Google can not. Surely it can’t have anything to do with Big Telecom trying to keep them out, could it? Imagine how things would change (for the better) if we didn’t have to pay for North American long distance because we used Google Voice…

Disclaimer

Follow this guide at your own risk. I’m not responsible for any charges that you may incur as a result of your experimentation.

Credits/References:

Instructions from other blogs: http://goo.gl/84Ho3, http://goo.gl/B1n1S

Tor Project Browser: http://goo.gl/ihTV

Skype Online Number: http://goo.gl/EPmC

TellFi: http://goo.gl/z25my

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