Aug 012011

I didn’t expect any functionality on our Sprint Android phones during this summer’s overseas family visit (Croatia, Europe), but we were pleasantly surprised by Google Voice. As you probably know, Sprint (and Verizon) uses CDMA technology which works great in the USA, but it’s totally incompatible with GSM mobile networks, which are still the dominant technology worldwide (you can read more about CDMA vs GSM here). Once we reached Europe both my wife’s and my phones had hence become sort of “Android Touch” (like iPod Touch vs iPhone). I expected to have pure bricks, however, because of the unlimited WiFi connection at our destination we discovered that we are able to exchange text messages and listen to our voice mail seamlessly using our Google Voice USA numbers over WiFi and without any phone network connection, just because we activated Google Voice voice mail on our phones several months ago.

I was also able to simply and free of charge add my Ooma Telo (internet telephony device) US number to my Google Voice there, so although calls to my Google Voice number were not ringing on my cell phone as when I’m in the USA, they were ringing on the land line telephone set connected to Ooma. You can read more about my experience with internet telephony overseas in my Ooma vs. Vonage vs. Magic Jack vs Skype Overseas post.

If you’re traveling overseas and you’re on a CDMA mobile network (major ones being Sprint and Verizon) make sure you make your choices for Google Voice before you leave the USA because once you’re out there and without CDMA mobile networks around you (read no phone access), your account won’t accept any changes, at least not according to our experience. In our case my wife wasn’t able to switch her primary Sprint mobile phone number to Google Voice. Sprint recently offered this integration so that you can make your Sprint mobile number a Google Voice number instead of keeping two separate mobile numbers, but my wife wasn’t sure what to do and waited to make her choice. Then overseas she made up her mind to switch away from secondary Google Voice to Sprint number so that she could send and receive text messages from and to her “regular” cell phone number known by all her family and friends, but each time we went to the settings of her Google Voice account from a computer and chose
Option 1: Replace your Google Voice number with your Sprint number
Calls made from Google Voice and Gmail will display your Sprint number. Your Google Voice number will remain on your account for 90 days.
Enable with my Sprint Number

the change never happens and Google Voice gets stuck on account creation window with message “Creating Google Voice Account”, probably attempting to contact the phone by mobile network instead of by the Internet, which is the only currently available connection. As a result, the minor inconvenience is that my wife has to text from her Google Voice number which she didn’t announce to anybody till now. Therefore, if you’re traveling overseas and using CDMA technology (Sprint, Verizon and US Cellular users), my advice would be to make up your mind and configure and test Google Voice BEFORE leaving the United States.

UPDATE: We confirmed this theory when we returned to the USA, when the change on my wife’s phone was not only possible, but also very simple and quick. Once you initiate the Google Voice number change to the original Sprint mobile number, the system first checks whether the phone is online, then gives you a code that you need to enter when you receive an automated call from Google. Once we did this, her Google Voice was integrated into her Sprint phone number and then there was another code she needed to call to confirm this and disable the old Google Voice number. After this the old Google Voice number will forward to the new number (Sprint mobile number) for another month before being permanently retired. The whole procedure took about two minutes, but it wasn’t available overseas since the phone was not on any mobile network.

If anybody wants to share a similar experience here, please do, I’d be grateful.

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