If navigating your Android phone’s voicemail system sounds antiquated, bring it into the 21st century with Google Voice and Android’s Phone app. Together, the two apps add new features to your phone’s voicemail, such as automatically transcribing new messages, delivering voicemail via email, and completely blocking future voicemails.
Here’s how to use Google Voice to replace your built-in voicemail on Android.
Get a Free Google Voice Number
Let’s start by getting a free number from Google Voice. If you’re unfamiliar with the service, take a look at our guide to learn how Google Voice works.
To get your number, install Google Voice. Open the app, select your Google Account, then select Continue. Now select Search and type in the location or area code number for where you want your Google Voice number in the Search by location or number field.
Set up voicemail on Google Voice
Now, you need to set up voicemail service on your new Google Voice account. Open Google Voice, select the hamburger menu (the three lines in the top left), and tap Settings.
You’ll want to become familiar with two options: Device and Number and Do Not Disturb.
Under the former, you can add new devices and link up to six phone numbers to Google Voice. The Google Voice Help site will tell you how to do this. This is a handy feature if you want to use Google Voice as your sole voicemail service on multiple phone numbers in the United States.
In the meantime, turn on Do Not Disturb because we’re not using Google Voice to send or receive calls or texts—only for voicemail. Now, if someone tries to contact you directly through your Google Voice number, they will be redirected to your Google Voice Voicemail.
You can also set custom rules and greetings for certain callers in Google Voice, although this is only accessible through the web version of Google Voice.
Set up call forwarding via the Phone app
To forward future voicemails from your carrier’s voicemail to Google Voice’s voicemail, you must first set up call forwarding. Traditionally, this has been a pain in the neck. For example, if you want to forward your AT&T number to another phone or voicemail when you are busy, you would dial *90, followed by the forwarding number, then the hash symbol (#). To deactivate, dial *91#.
Luckily, your Android phone’s Phone app makes call forwarding simple. Open the app and tap the three-dot icon in the top-right corner of the screen. Now go to Settings > Calls > Call Forwarding to access the Phone app’s call forwarding settings screen.
Since we want calls to be forwarded to Google Voice from your main number only when the caller leaves a voicemail, make sure the Always Forward field is set to Off.
One by one, tap the When busy, When unanswered, and When unreachable fields. Paste your Google Voice number in each of them and choose Update.
Your phone will ring normally when someone calls your main number. If your phone is busy, off, or you don’t answer, their call will be redirected to your Google Voice voicemail.
set a custom greeting
The next step is to set up a Google Voice voicemail greeting so callers know they’re calling you. Unlike your carrier’s voicemail, you can create a custom greeting in the Google Voice app.
Repeat the process to add more greetings if you need them. To set another greeting as Active, select the three-dots icon and tap Set as Active. Tap Delete on any greetings you no longer want to use.
Receive your voicemail via email
Google Voice makes accessing and listening to your voicemail as easy as using your carrier’s Visual Voicemail app—and it’s free! Open Google Voice, and you can listen to your voicemails right in the app.
If you want to have your voicemail messages delivered to your email, it’s easy. Select Settings, then tap the toggle next to Voicemail transcripts and the toggle next to Receive voicemails via email. Going forward, each new voicemail message will be automatically transcribed and emailed to you.
How to stop using Google Voice for your voicemail
You can use Google Voice as the proverbial voicemail black hole by simply uninstalling the app. Voicemails will still be redirected to Google Voice, but you will never be notified of new messages.
If you want to use your carrier’s voicemail, return to the Call Forwarding setting, tap each call forwarding rule that you activated in Step 3, then select Turn Off. Now, when you’re unavailable, callers will be forwarded to your carrier’s voicemail instead of your Google Voice voicemail.