[Android] How To: Make free calls to USA and Canada phone numbers (mobile phones and landlines)

Recently I posted an article discussing the best free apps to make free VoIP calls on Android. Free VoIP calls are very nice, but one issue with them is the fact that you can only call people that are using the same app/service you are using. In other words, you cannot call traditional phone numbers (mobile phones or landlines) without coughing up money. What if one wanted to make regular calls? Is it possible to do it without using minutes? Yes, it is. And this guide will show you how.

Image credit: comedy_nose

What You Can Do After You Follow This Guide

This guide is written with one goal in mind: To enable you to make calls to traditional USA & Canada phone numbers (mobile phones and landlines) for free; and receive calls from anywhere for free. When I say “free”, I mean without using your cell phone minutes that you purchase from your cell phone service provider.

After following this guide, you will be able to use your 3G, 4G, or WiFi connection (yes, an active Internet connection is required) to make calls to any phone number in the USA or Canada for free and to receive calls from any number directly to your mobile phone for free. (If you do it properly, no cell phone minutes will be used when making or receiving these calls.) Think of it like a mix of VoIP and traditional telephony.

Interested? Read on.

How We Will Do it

To enable free calls to USA & Canada phone numbers/receiving free calls, we will make use of two tools: Groove IP, an app for $4.99, and Google Voice, a service provided by Google for free. If you don’t know about it already, Google Voice allows its users to make free calls to USA & Canada phone numbers (mobile and landlines). Groove IP is the app that brings that free calling functionality to your Android device.

We will use Groove IP to connect incoming and outgoing calls through Google Voice, which ensures your Internet connection is used for these calls instead of your minutes. (The official Google Voice app for Android uses minutes to connect calls.)

Do take note, however, Google Voice is for USA residents only. You can use Google Voice if you live outside the United States but in order to create a Google Voice account you need a USA phone number that can be authenticated by Google; hence it being “USA only”. (This USA phone number can be a mobile number or a landline.)

Also, part of the Google Voice process involves getting a new number. You will still keep the phone number provided to you by your cell phone company but all outgoing calls will be sent via the Google Voice number and you must tell your friends to call you at the Google Voice number in order for you to have free incoming calls.

What You Can’t Do After You Follow This Guide

Any limitation of Google Voice is stuff you cannot do after you follow this guide. For example, with Google Voice you cannot call emergency (e.g. 911) numbers. Nor can you make calls to international numbers (i.e. any number not from USA or Canada) for free. You can still make international calls, of course, but you will be charged by Google Voice at its respective international rates. And, if at any time Google disables free USA & Canada calls with Google Voice, you will no longer be able to make the calls for free.

Furthermore, you need to make sure to use a Google Voice account with which you are only logged in through Groove IP. In other words, use a Google Voice account which is associated with a Gmail/Google Apps account that you do not regularly use to chat on Gtalk with because Google Voice will only route calls to one login at a time: You cannot be logged into the Google account at multiple locations (e.g. your phone and your computer) for this to work. If you are logged into the Google account at multiple locations, you may not receive incoming calls properly. If you have a Google Voice account associated with a Google account you regularly use for Gtalk, my suggestion is to go and create a new Google account, create a new Google Voice account for that new Google account, and then authenticate this new Google Voice account with your USA phone number. Since one USA phone number can be used with only one Google Voice account at a time, you will, of course, lose that older Google Voice account but this will then allow you to successfully receive incoming calls through Groove IP.

How To Make And Receive Free Calls

To make free calls to USA and Canada numbers and to receive free calls from anywhere in the world, do the following:

  • If you don’t already have one, create a Google Voice account. Registration for Google Voice is completely free, although, as I mentioned earlier, you need a USA phone number to authenticate the account.
  • Once you have a Google Voice account – either from the past or you just created a new one – log in to Google Voice and go to Google Voice settings:

  • At Settings go to the Phones tab and set Forward calls to to your Google chat account:

To avoid confusion (e.g. answering a phone call with your regular phone instead of using Groove IP) it is highly recommended to forward calls only to your Google chat account.

There is no save button on Google Voice settings so simply checking the checkboxes will do the trick.

  • Purchase and install Groove IP. Regular price for Groove IP is $4.99 but sometimes you can find it on sale for $1.99 on Amazon Appstore. In fact, at the time of this writing Groove IP is on sale on Amazon Appstore for $1.99.
  • Once you have installed Groove IP, run it and log into your Google Voice account:

  • Once you tap Sign In, you will be promoted to enable calling over 3G/4G:

If you don’t have an active data plan from your cell phone company, then don’t enable calling over 3G/4G — you can use Groove IP over WiFi; also if your cell phone company doesn’t allow VoIP, don’t enable calling over 3G/4G — you can use Groove IP over WiFi.

Once you have finished that last step, you are done! There are some settings you can customize with Groove IP if you wish, but now you can make calls to any USA and Canada phone number for free and receive calls from any phone number in the world for free.

Important Things To Remember

Firstly, remember to use Groove IP when making calls and not your regular cell phone service. You can either dial phone numbers from Groove IP’s own dialer…

…or use your cell phone’s regular dialer and select Groove IP as the connector after dialing the call:

Secondly, for reference sake so you know what incoming and outgoing calls through Groove IP look like (to avoid the mistake of answering a non-Groove IP call and getting charged for it by your cell phone company), here are screenshots of an incoming call and an outgoing call in Groove IP:

Lastly, remember this trick uses Google Voice. All outgoing calls you make will show up as your Google Voice number to the receiver, not your regular cell phone number. Make sure to tell that to everyone you plan on calling so they add your new Google Voice number to contacts. For incoming calls, be sure to tell your friends and family to call your Google Voice number not your normal cell phone number.

Conclusion

Damn this is so cool, right? For a measly $5 (or $2 if you get Groove IP on sale) you can make as many calls to USA and Canada numbers as you want without having to pay a dime; and you can use Google Voice to make semi-cheap international calls (Google Voice international rates are much cheaper than what your cell phone company will charge you). Abuse Use this while Google Voice’s free USA and Canada calls are still available.

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26 comments

  1. Abhinaw Raj

    “cheap International calls app”

    I use Smartgroschen app for cheap calls, which provides calls with high quality voice calls. We can also use this apps for voip calls, chat with video clips, pictures and your current position on the map. Smartgroschen is an instant messenger that allows you to connect with any Smartgroschen-user worldwide for free.Signup and get 0.50 euro.

  2. Abhinaw Raj

    cheap International calls app

    I use Smartgroschen app for cheap calls, which provides calls with high quality voice calls. We can also use this apps for voip calls, chat with video clips, pictures and your current position on the map. Smartgroschen is an instant messenger that allows you to connect with any Smartgroschen-user worldwide for free.Signup and get 0.50 euro.

  3. Presegs Adesida

    [@Peter Lewis]

    There is a way out of which your Google Voice number can be ringing on your native phone number either for receiving or making calls without using third party application like Groove IP,Mo+ or other third party applications.

  4. Presegs Adesida

    Great!As for me,I make use of Mo+ application from mopl.us which is totally free instead of the so-called GROOVEIP.

    I got a free USA phone from a provider forwarded to my Nigerian line which do ring on my Nigerian line though it cost some dime if I pick it up on my phone via my Nigerian line but free when forwarded to SKYPE or GTALK.I then used the USA phone number to get a USA Google voice number while on my USA Dedicated IP.
    I as well set it in such a way that any of my two USA phone number when called rings on both my Nigerian line(charges will be incurred if picked on it) & Mo+ application(it is totally free for calling and receiving calls & text messages) at the same time.

    It works perfectly without even spending a dime.

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  7. J.L.

    For fellow Canadian readers, there is a free app called Dell Voice. It works fine for me in major cities with a stable WiFi or 3G connection. Free international incoming, but of course there’s a *.

    Problem is, you can’t call those damn Americans without paying. You can however, SMS those southern hillbillies and businessmen with HeyWire. It even gives you their number LOL (indicator of previous sarcasm).

    I really should’ve posted when this article was first made, but forgot to. Yup, I rarely use it outside of family (when not pretending to be American).

  8. Peter Lewis

    @Atcold: thanks. But I have already got a GV number. My question is how do I use it on my Android phone overseas with a non-US SIM?

    I see that Groove IP could be the workaround. Is there anyway to the stock Voice app in Android and not use third party apps?

  9. Peter Lewis

    I have a Google Voice account. But I am now outside the US with a foreign local mobile phone. How do I activate the stock GV app in my Android phone to use my Google Voice account?

    It keeps trying to use my foreign local number to send an SMS to Google but failed. Why should GV require normal mobile service when it is VOIP?

  10. Lyss

    Thanks Ashraf!!

    I’ve been going crazy recently trying to find either an easy to use app or at least straight forward instructions on how to do this. The level of customization in the settings is awesome! Especially being able to set a start and stop time so it can be set to run only during “daytime” minutes! A feature so many other apps are lacking.

    Thanks so much for the info!

  11. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @normofthenorth: Yeah, sounds typical MagicJack. Sometimes it works great, sometimes it doesn’t. VoIP doesn’t require too much bandwidth so I doubt the lack of quality is caused at your end; my bet is MagicJack servers and/or service was overloaded at that time with many people using it.

    However, it is free so… yeah.

    I’m trying to get Locutus to write an article on dotTech about MagicJack since he owns an iDevice and I don’t. Let’s see if he gets around to it.

  12. normofthenorth

    BTW, my Wi-Fi connection was strong (all 3 of my iPod’s curved “bars”) last night, and I don’t think anybody else in the house was using bandwidth (though I didn’t ask). It is a cable modem that’s usually super-fast, though I’ve been told that the neighborhood shares the bandwidth with cable, so maybe…

  13. normofthenorth

    Ashraf, if you’d asked me a month ago, I would have raved about the quality from MJ. I spent two working DAYS with it, connecting to a business meeting in Toronto from a relative’s house on Cape Cod, and it was almost perfect almost all the time, wireless on my iPod. Unfortunately, when I tried it last night — two short calls from my Toronto iPod to a Toronto cell phone — we could barely understand each other.

    I don’t know if cell phones make it harder, or if I just picked an unlucky time/place last night, or if I just picked an unusually lucky one (for hours and hours) a month ago.

    For Apple’s iOs, there are quite a few choices for free calls, including MJ & Tapatalk — and Skype and Face-To-Face, though the last two may be limited to other users of the same system, rather than “real” phones.

  14. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @Bruce Fraser: Glad you like it!

    I have heard it is possible to get GV outside the USA but never really tried it myself.

    @NormoftheNorth: We used to have MagicJack at my house (the USB that plugs into computer). It worked well for a few months, but then the quality went downhill. How well does it work on your iPod?

  15. NormoftheNorth

    On my iPod I’m getting great service from the free MagicJack app, which does all this seamlessly and very well. It was supposed to be available for Android in Oct but maybe it’s late.

    When it comes it’ll be the answer IMHO.