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Google Voice from Germany to the States

My son is going to Germany for three weeks and I want to be able to both talk with him and text. I just got a Google Voice account which states I can use it for cheap international calls. I don't have much experience with Google Voice other than texting on my computer. Can anyone tell me if this is a good way to go? Do both he and I need a Google Voice account? (We both have Iphone 4.) Thanks!

Posted by
11154 posts
  1. If you both have iPhones, it will be even easier to use FaceTime.
  2. He will need to be using WiFi. Even if Google Voice or FaceTime work over 3G/4G data networks (I'm not sure if they do or not), the cost will be very high for the data roaming.
  3. By the way, while any iPhone will work on WiFi, an AT&T iPhone 4 will roam on German networks, so he could talk and text over that (check their rates; text is not too high). A Verizon iPhone 4 will not work in Europe except on WiFi.
Posted by
274 posts

Today he bought an Iphone 5S, so I believe that gives him more options. My understanding is that he should put it in Airplane Mode so that he does not accidentally use data. Then when he is in a wifi area he can use google voice or skype or facetime...... can he also just text us? I guess that question probably needs to go to a different forum. Is one of these cheaper and easier than the others? Are these really all free?

Posted by
11154 posts

"My understanding is that he should put it in Airplane Mode so that he does not accidentally use data. Then when he is in a wifi area he can use google voice or skype or facetime...... can he also just text us? "

If you put the phone in airplane mode, you get no data, no WiFi, no talking, and no texting. All you can do is things already on the phone itself - play games, listen to music, read a book you've already downloaded, watch a movie you've already put on the phone, etc.

If you want to avoid accidental data use, you can shut off data roaming. This will still allow talk and text, and still allow WiFi use.

Regular texts go over the same network as voice. If you want to text while using WiFi and not using the voice network, you need an app that allows this (I'm not up on these, but I know they exist). Do check on the costs for voice calls and texts before he goes. And if he wants to do a lot of this, some plans have a package that lower the cost (for instance, with AT&T you can prepay $10 for 50 texts, and even less per text for larger amounts).

Posted by
274 posts

Harold,
Thanks for the clarification on "airplane mode". I had read that on a different post and obviously became confused! So when you refer to checking on costs of voice or text, are you referring to him using his cell phone with his current provider (which is Verizon) versus using Google Voice, Skype, or Face Time? Are those three all free?

Posted by
274 posts

Thank you, Dick! So let me make sure I get this because you can tell I am totally new to this. We can use Skype, Face Time, Google Voice through his cell phone or a laptop for free as long as we both have wifi. Is that correct?

If he wants to make phone calls for an emergency (and may not have wifi - like if he's lost and needs to get in touch with his tour group) we can purchase an international calling plan through Verizon.

What happens when I text him or he texts me and we both have wifi? Do we get charged through Verizon? Is this when we would use Google Voice since it's free?

I've read a few things about Skype. Does it only make sense to do this from a computer versus his cell phone? Somewhere I read that we have to pay for minutes through a cell phone although it's free from a laptop.....?

Thanks for all your help! I can't wait until I completely understand this!!!

Posted by
11154 posts

"We can use Skype, Face Time, Google Voice through his cell phone or a laptop for free as long as we both have wifi. Is that correct?"

Yes.

"If he wants to make phone calls for an emergency (and may not have wifi - like if he's lost and needs to get in touch with his tour group) we can purchase an international calling plan through Verizon."

If you don't purchase an international plan, the call will still go through - it will just cost more per minute. If he plans on using it just for emergencies, it may not pay to purchase a plan; if he plans on making more calls or texts, buying an international plan makes sense.

"What happens when I text him or he texts me and we both have wifi? Do we get charged through Verizon? Is this when we would use Google Voice since it's free?"

Text goes through the regular cell network (the same one used for voice calls), not through WiFi. There are apps that send texts, and these will work with WiFi. BUT, if you are not using one of these apps, you will both charged international texting fees (much lower, by the way, than international calling fees). Texting is a great way to set up a Skype/Google Talk/FaceTime session.

"I've read a few things about Skype. Does it only make sense to do this from a computer versus his cell phone? Somewhere I read that we have to pay for minutes through a cell phone although it's free from a laptop.....?"

No, that's not right. If you Skype over WiFi (regardless of the device), it's free. If he Skypes over the data network on his cell phone rather than over WiFi, he'll be charged data roaming fees (high for this, since it uses a lot of data). So, before Skypeing on his phone, he should be sure to turn off data roaming, and make sure he's just using WiFi. The advantage of doing it on a laptop is that there is no data roaming possible, so he's sure it's over WiFi and therefore free.