Google has been dabbling in the realm of Internet-based calling for years. First it was Gmail, then Hangouts got in on the action. While there were ways (and even third-party products) to use the Google Voice service for VoIP, it was probably the least enjoyable calling experience we’ve seen that didn’t involve MacGyver-style shorting of exposed wires to dial a number. Now an update to the Google Voice app reveals that it’s finally going to make its VoIP capabilities an official feature, and it’ll be usable directly from your phone without any hacky workarounds.
Unofficial Changelog: (originally posted Jan 28, 2018 at 06:52AM)
- Missed call notifications
Official Changelog: (posted Feb 2, 2018)
- Geographic location for phone numbers
- Copy voicemail transcription
- Save multiple images from a received message
Official changelog posted
Google has posted a changelog for this update, adding a few more things that should be new with this update. Included in the list is the ability to copy voicemail transcriptions, which is mentioned in the teardown below. (Sorry, I can’t use Voice because it gets blocked as a Fi subscriber, so testing for things like this isn’t an option.) Also mentioned is “geographic location for phone numbers,” which is a pretty vague explanation, so maybe it makes sense for users. And finally, you can now save multiple images sent through MMS messages.
Missed call notifications
There is one oddball thing already working in this release. If you don’t use Google Voice, you might be a little surprised to learn that it never gave missed call notifications. To be fair, that responsibility usually fell on a phone’s dialer app, and Google Voice does give notifications for things like new voicemail and SMS/MMS. However, if there was any reason your phone didn’t receive the call (e.g. in a dead zone), you might not know somebody called unless a message was left. It looks like that changes with v5.7, because missed call notifications are now appearing if somebody calls your Google Voice number.
The reality is that these notifications probably have more to do with the VoIP discussion we’re about to have in the teardown, so we can move straight to that part…
Note: As pointed out in the comments, there is a setting to have Google Voice generate an email when a call is missed. The addition discussed above is a system notification.
Disclaimer: Teardowns are based on evidence found inside of apks (Android’s application package) and are necessarily speculative and usually based on incomplete information. It’s possible that the guesses made here are totally and completely wrong. Even when predictions are correct, there is always a chance that plans could change or may be canceled entirely. Much like rumors, nothing is certain until it’s officially announced and released.
The features discussed below are probably not live yet, or may only be live for a small percentage of users. Unless stated otherwise, don’t expect to see these features if you install the apk.
Voice over IP
We’ll just let the promotional text speak for itself:
New! Calling over Wi-Fi and mobile data
Make and receive calls over Wi-Fi and mobile data when you use the Google Voice app. Note: This will turn off call screening %s
<string name=”voip_info_text”>This does not affect calls started from this device’s phone app</string>
It doesn’t get much simpler than that – you’ll be able to make calls using Wi-Fi or mobile data. This will effectively give many people a phone with a second number, but one of them uses Google Voice app and its calls run over data as opposed to your carrier’s calling features.
We’ll get to the minor details shortly, but first let’s discuss a couple of broader changes that may impact how you already use Google Voice. To begin with, making calls with your Google Voice number used to be done through your dialer app, but it looks like that won’t work for much longer.
You can no longer use this device’s phone app to make Google Voice calls. Place your call to %1s using your carrier, or tap Cancel and use the Google Voice app instead.
<string name=”proxy_preferences_call_interception_unsupported_title”>Google Voice has changed</string>
<string name=”proxy_preferences_call_interception_unsupported”>Due to a change to your account, Google Voice calling from this device’s phone app is no longer supported. Use the Google Voice app instead.</string>
Basically, calls through Google Voice will have to be done using its own app. My guess is that Google is doing away with the step that involved calling into Voice first, then routing through another call to the actual destination. This step will be replaced with the more straightforward VoIP call. It’s possible the old method will remain operational, but it’s hard to say with certainty.
The next change is a bit easier to absorb: Hangouts messages that were sent through the Google Voice system to telephone numbers (as opposed to a Google account) will be visible in the Google Voice app. It sounds like both apps will now have access to those same messages, so you can probably use whichever one you prefer.
You can now see Google Voice messages sent from Hangouts in Google Voice. %s
Finally, you’ll still be able to use the Google Voice app to initiate outgoing calls through your carrier. A setting will allow you to choose whether you want to use only your carrier for making calls or if you prefer Wi-Fi and cellular data. If a call fails, you’ll be prompted to attempt the call using the other method.
Choose how you want to make and receive calls in the Google Voice app. This will affect all devices linked to your account.
This does not affect calls started from the device’s phone app
Make and receive calls
Make and receive calls
<string name=”prefer_carrier_preference_detail”>Use carrier only</string>
<string name=”prefer_carrier_radio_button_title”>Use carrier only</string>
<string name=”prefer_carrier_radio_button_detail”>Carrier rates apply.</string>
<string name=”prefer_wifi_and_mobile_data_preference_detail”>Prefer Wi-Fi and mobile data</string>
<string name=”prefer_wifi_and_mobile_data_radio_button_detail”>Make and receive calls over Wi-Fi and mobile data when available. Carrier rates may apply if Wi-Fi is unavailable.</string>
<string name=”prefer_wifi_and_mobile_data_radio_button_title”>Prefer Wi-Fi and mobile data</string>
<string name=”call_failure_alert_retry_using_proxy_button”>Retry using carrier</string>
<string name=”call_failure_alert_retry_using_voip_button”>Retry using internet</string>
<string name=”proxy_call_failed_network_body”>Google Voice needs a data connection to place your call to %1s . You can retry the call through Voice once you have a data connection, or place the call through your carrier number.</string>
<string name=”proxy_call_failed_unknown_body”>Google Voice was unable to place your call to %1s for some reason. You can retry this call using Google Voice or place the call through your carrier number.</string>
<string name=”call_failed_network_body_with_multiple_retry_options”>Google Voice needs an internet connection to place your call to %1s . When you get a data connection, you can try again using internet or through your carrier with your Google Voice number.</string>
<string name=”call_failed_network_with_one_retry_option”>Google Voice needs an internet connection to place your call to %1s . When you get a data connection, you can try again.</string>
<string name=”call_failed_unknown_reason”>Google Voice couldn’t place your call to %1s.</string>
<string name=”call_failed_unknown_reason_multiple_retry_options”>Google Voice couldn’t place your call to %1s. You can try again using internet or through your carrier with your Google Voice number.</string>
<string name=”call_failure_title”>Can’t connect your call</string>
<string name=”incoming_call_feature_disabled_explanation”>To use incoming call options, change “Make and receive calls” to “Use carrier only”.</string>
The standard details
There are plenty of predictable additions related to giving true calling functions to Google Voice, including the text for in-call functions and notifications. None of them are particularly interesting, but we’ll skim over them in this section. Feel free to skip to the next if you like.
Incoming and outgoing calls will be labeled as Google Voice calls when appropriate, otherwise they’ll probably have your carrier’s name.
Google Voice call
Google Voice Wi-Fi call
Calling via Google Voice…
Call to %s
Placing internet call to %1s
There will be standard controls to answer and decline calls, hang up, put people on hold, mute the line, or toggle the speaker.
<string name=”incall_close_dialpad”>Close dialpad</string>
<string name=”incall_ui_a11y_hold”>Hold call</string>
<string name=”incall_ui_a11y_resume”>Resume call</string>
<string name=”incall_ui_speaker_off”>Speaker Off</string>
<string name=”incall_ui_speaker_on”>Speaker On</string>
<string name=”incoming_call”>incoming call from</string>
<activity android:name=”com.google.android.apps.voice.voip.ui.VoipCallActivity” android:excludeFromRecents=”true” android:exported=”false” android:launchMode=”singleInstance” android:screenOrientation=”portrait” android:taskAffinity=”com.google.android.apps.voice.voip.ui” android:theme=”@style/InCallTheme” />
<service android:name=”com.google.android.apps.voice.voip.ui.callservice.CallForegroundService” android:exported=”false” />
<receiver android:name=”com.google.android.apps.voice.voip.ui.callservice.OngoingCallActionReceiver_Receiver” android:exported=”false”>
<action android:name=”com.google.android.apps.voice.voip.ui.callservice.ANSWER_ACTION” />
<action android:name=”com.google.android.apps.voice.voip.ui.callservice.AUDIO_DEVICE_TOGGLE_ACTION” />
<action android:name=”com.google.android.apps.voice.voip.ui.callservice.DECLINE_ACTION” />
<action android:name=”com.google.android.apps.voice.voip.ui.callservice.HANG_UP_ACTION” />
<action android:name=”com.google.android.apps.voice.voip.ui.callservice.MEDIA_BUTTON_ACTION” />
<receiver android:name=”com.google.android.apps.voice.voip.ui.callservice.RemoteControlReceiver” android:exported=”true”>
<action android:name=”android.intent.action.MEDIA_BUTTON” />
Most of those same in-call functions will also be available through a persistent notification.
Dialing – %s
Incoming call – %s
Ongoing call – %s
Turn speaker off
Turn speaker on
It may interest some people to know that the two-finger swipe up or down to accept or decline a call is going to be an option here.
Incoming call from %s
Swipe up with two fingers to answer or down to reject the call
Swipe up to answer
Swipe down to decline
And since this is a Google app, of course it will prompt users to give feedback about the call quality.
How was the call quality?
What went wrong?
Garbled or unclear audio
Call dropped in the middle
Call never connected
Missed call notifications
While these were discussed earlier in the post, there’s actually one more directly detail worth mentioning: You can have Google Voice watch your notifications and it won’t produce one of its own if your dialer app already posted something for a missed call. This is vaguely reminiscent to the way Inbox offers to shut down Gmail notifications to prevent duplicates, though this one is necessarily more complicated internally. However, for users, all that’s necessary is granting call history access to Google Voice.
Missed call notifications
Google Voice will notify if the dialer does not
<string name=”call_history_permissions_requested_title”>Missed call notifications</string>
<string name=”call_history_permissions_requested_body”>To avoid duplicate notifications for missed calls, Google Voice needs permissions to read the device’s call history.</string>
<item quantity=”other”>%1$d missed calls from %2$s</item>
<item quantity=”one”>Missed call from %s</item>
This one has nothing to do with VoIP, it’s just one last interesting feature. Previously, you could copy a phone number or content of a text message, but not the transcription of voicemail. Well, that was either resolve in this update, or will be soon. Sorry, I couldn’t test this yet, so you may want to check if it’s live already.
Update: Reported to be live. Thanks, hp-fourtwenty!
The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.