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If you’ve been struggling to find an affordable phone plan with all the amenities, Google voice may be exactly what you’ve been looking for. Google Voice is Google’s answer to phones and can be used for business and personal needs alike. Here’s what Google Voice is and what it offers.

Google Voice gives you a phone number in your area code, and it’s free. When you receive your Google Voice account, you’re able to choose from a long list of available phone numbers. That means you can choose your local area code and any number that fits your needs. And if you’d rather not search through hundreds of phone numbers, you can use their search function to see if the number you want is available. This is great if you want your phone number to spell something. Not always easy to get what you want, but worth a try.

Your Google voice number allows you to send and receive text messages too. And you can send and receive them right from your computer if it’s easier than finding your phone and responding. You can also:

* Screen calls – you can require callers to announce themselves before you determine if you want to take the call.

* Listen to calls before deciding to take it. For example, if you don’t recognize a number you can pick up the phone and listen to the voicemail being left. If you realize it’s your sister and not a sales person you can push a button to take the call.

* Block calls. This is a great feature to keep those political or telemarketing calls at bay.

* You can also turn your calls off, with exceptions. If you’re not interested in taking calls but need to be available to family members you can set your phone to temporarily allow only certain calls to come through. This is also great if you’re anticipating a call from a client.

* Forward to any phone. One of the reasons Google Voice is so affordable, besides the fact that the number and the majority of your calling and texting is free, is that you can forward your calls to any phone. That means one number can be forwarded to your home landline, your work number, your cell – whatever you choose, and you can forward to multiple phones if you just don’t know where you’re going to be and you don’t want to miss a call.

This forwarding option means you can have a separate business number that forwards to your home or cell phone and you can have a separate business voicemail without having to purchase another phone, phone number and contract.

* Receive transcripts of your voicemails. You can set your voicemails to be transcribed and delivered to your email or via text message, or both. This is great if you spend a lot of time on the computer. And you can respond to transcribed voicemails via email or text message.

* You can check voicemail on line.

* Greetings can be personalized depending on the caller.

* Voicemail messages can be shared with others. You can forward voicemail messages to other people and download them too.

* Google Voice lets you record calls, make conference calls, and switch phones during a call.

Google Voice is a fantastic solution to your phone plan woes. You can request a number by going to http://google.com/voice.  Sign in with your google login, and follow the steps!