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Google Voice and CallerID and Area Code 406

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Google VoiceIf you’re using Google Voice you may have realized getting people to use your new number could be tricky.  Lifehacker has a post covering steps you can take to make your friends update their contacts.  But the most important factor in getting people to use your new number could easily be CallerID.

If you call someone without going through Google Voice they’ll see the number of the phone you’re using:  home landline, cell, or work.  The extra steps to initiate the call through Google Voice might be a barrier for users otherwise interested in the service.

But there’s a way to direct dial your contacts and have them see your Google Voice number in the Caller ID.  When one of your friends sends an SMS to your Google Voice number it needs to go through a legit mobile number as the intermediary.  Google has taken control of a block of area code 406 numbers in Montana for this purpose.  The 406 number you (GV user) see when Wendy sends you a text is a permanent mapping between you and Wendy.  In other words, Your Google Voice Account + 406 123 4567 = Wendy’s Mobile Phone.   But you can’t tell your sister who uses Google Voice to use that same 406 number to call Wendy.  For your sister’s Google Voice account there will be a different 406 number assigned to Wendy.   The mapping allows one 406 number to be used by many Google Voice customers.

Here’s what happens when you dial the 406 number from one of your Google Voice associated phones:  By dialing the 406 number in the first place you’re calling straight into Google Voice.  Google sees it’s your home landline from the CallerID and knows you are a Google Voice user.  Then Google joins your Google Voice account with the 406 number you’ve dialed which maps to Wendy’s mobile.  Your call is completed to Wendy with your Google Voice number inserted into the CallerID instead of the number of the phone you’re calling from.

Downside?  From a home landline it would be a long distance call for those of us outside 406.  But from many mobile phones long distance is included, so there’s no extra charge.

Keep in mind that another Google Voice user will have a different 406 number for Wendy.  Another catch:  You can’t use the 406 number from a phone you haven’t tied into your Google Voice account.  That would result in Google only having half the equation – they wouldn’t know what Google Voice account to pair with the 406 number to see who should be called.  A call to the 406 number from a non-Google Voice phone won’t be completed.

Google hasn’t provided tons of information on the 406 numbers but it’s been reported that the mappings are permanent.  For many people, using the 406 numbers to call your contacts will be the most direct way to dial through Google Voice.  And it’ll help get people switched over to your new Google Voice number.

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6 comments to “Google Voice and CallerID and Area Code 406”

  1. Ahh! I had heard about the 406 number and was totally confused. I totally get what you’re saying. Sounds like a good way to make use of all those numbers.

  2. Does it cost long distance to call the 406 number

  3. Yes, it’s just a regular call, so it costs long distance. But often times you’d be using a mobile phone and it’s likely that long distance would be included for many users.

  4. I use to do that, but once in a while, these 406 numbers would get crossed to another one of my contacts. Would only happen like 2 times out of a hundred, but since calls would be to a known contact of mine, it was not that bad. I wait about 3 minutes and call again and call would go through to intended person. What I do now is just program my contacts number by putting my google voice and pause and then pin and pause and 2 (to make a call) and pause and there actual number. This is the same thing as me calling gvoice and doing all the steps manually. Once I program my contact like that, then I just call from my phone like any other number and the process is automated. Only downside is not being able to export my contacts from gvoice into skype. I end up doing this on both phones, but it is so worth it. I have my gvoice caller id show up just by dialing a contact as I normally would. I just decided to take a few hours one day and set up all my contacts like that and all is good now. Just take the plunge and do it already.

  5. I’m a huge fan of the 406 area code Google voice uses. When I first meet new people now, I give them my Google Voice number, that way I have the option to block them later and in general ignore their calls. Since most people text first these days, I get their special formulated Google Voice proxy number and save that to my contacts.

  6. So is this the reason why I can never actually get a 406 Google Voice number? I’ve been trying for a while to get a local number to help with a cross country job search, and there are never any 406 available.

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