Google Voice (GV) is a free service in your Gmail account that provides users outbound calling in the U.S. as well as inbound call forwarding. You can select a GV phone number and then choose which existing phone number (e.g. your cell phone) to which you’d like calls to be forwarded. You can make outbound calls in the Gmail interface. You can also take advantage of their voicemail-to-email service. But, with Google Voice, you cannot register a phone and make and receive calls to that phone. It is mainly a call-forwarding service.
Gizmo5 is an online VoIP company, somewhat similar to ours. Like ours, the Gizmo5 network uses open standards for call management, SIP and XMPP. Acquired back in late 2009 by Google, Gizmo5’s technology can be seen at work today in Gmail VoIP calling client.
Up until now, Gizmo5 users could forward calls to and from their Google Voice number to their Gizmo5 number, a work-around that allowed users to combine Google Voice with SIP hardware and software. That is, Gizmo5 users could register a phone with Gizmo5 credentials, give their Gizmo5 number to Google, and then make and receive calls through Google Voice to their SIP phone. Perhaps the best part is that as Google extended free calling through 2011, many savvy users were making and receiving calls on their SIP phones / ATAs for free.
Come April 3rd, that’s going to change.
Google Announces Gizmo5 Discontinuation
Google is pulling the plug on Gizmo5, which makes things like hooking up your Google Voice account to your business PBX a bit more complicated. It also won’t be as easy to do SIP-based mobile phone calling over Wifi, as Google has yet to add this to the GV platform. (Doing so would probably antagonize a lot of its carrier partners.)
Now, you may be asking, “Why is Google taking Gizmo5 away?” Do they hate me? Rest assured, it’s a bit more complicated than that. There are signs that Google intends to make GV more than a call-forwarding service. As we reported in our last entry, you can now call Google Voice numbers directly via SIP address using the pattern +1NPANXXXXXX@sip.voice.google.com. The "feature" doesn't seem to be documented any where, at least not yet. We’re taking it as another (pretty strong) indicator that Google Voice is moving towards embracing SIP in the near future.
It’s not all doom and gloom. There is a little bit of a silver lining.
Recommendations for Gizmo5/GV Users
Note: We could not think of a way to get free calling over the PSTN from a SIP device. The fact that Gizmo5 stopped taking new users long ago was a pretty clear indicator that Google did not intend to keep the service as is for long. Consider our own wild guesses as to why GV in Gmail was launched in the first place. What we do have is an honest way to communicate freely amongst SIP and Google Voice users on whatever phone you like.
We now know that all Google Voice numbers can be called via SIP. Although OnSIP is targeted towards business customers who want to replace their phone system, at its core, it’s a free SIP Voice and Video and XMPP messaging service, just like Gizmo5 is. That’s good news if you want to make free Voice and Video calls using SIP, and free calls to Google Voice numbers.
Step 1: Create a free SIP account with OnSIP
We have many features targeted specifically towards business users like voicemail boxes, auto-attendant menus, call groups, dial by name directories, etc, but what many people don’t know about us is that we also offer free SIP accounts.
Also free is our SIP domain hosting service, which allows you to personalize your SIP address. If you own your own domain, you can make your email address also your SIP address firstname.lastname@example.org with a few simple steps.
Bonus: If you’re managing a company or a team of people, you can add unlimited users for free on your same SIP domain. Additionally, you can then login with your SIP address and password to the OnSIP app to see your team’s IM and phone presence, click to call, and chat with them for free. Just like in Gmail.
Step 2: Download and Configure a SIP Client
With OnSIP, you can use your choice of software on iPhone or Android, PC or MAC or even go with the standard hardware phone. To call Google Voice numbers for free, you will need one that allows you to dial SIP URIs. For PC and Mac, we recommend Bria by Counterpath, but there are also others like SIP Communicator and Blink which are free to download. For a list of SIP based mobile phone calling applications, visit our mobile VoIP reviews.
Keep in mind that unlike Google Voice and Gizmo5, inbound, outbound (to non SIP addresses) and toll free calling is available on a pay-as-you-go basis.