Replace your home landline with Google Voice and Skype

As we become more mobile and have unlimited or high-minute cell phone plans, the traditional landline has given up its role as our connection to friends and become instead a connection to our wallet, sucking out a monthly stipend for the simple act of sitting there waiting to be put to work. Still, cutting the landline is a difficult step for many consumers to make. WalletPop will show you how you can use Google Voice, Skype, some accessories and a bit of planning to make dropping your landline easier.

First, the drawbacks of not having a landline.
  • No central point of contact for a family.
  • Not as comfortable as a normal phone for long talk sessions and being tethered to a PC for Skype.
  • Lack of good option for emergencies.
To start with, the lack of one number to reach the family is personally a big drawback. While my wife and I both have cellphones it is nice to have a home phone that can be given to utility companies and repair people as well as family and friends who don't need to talk to a specific person. This is where Google Voice comes in.

It's easy to create one number for Google Voice to ring everyone in your family. This is all on top of the ability to have voice-mail transcribed or played back online or to a smartphone for free. Google Voice is still invite only, but it is easy to gain access by asking for an invite on Twitter or buying one for $1 on eBay. When replacing a home phone you could add a $9.99 family share cell phone to your account and have Google Voice ring this new "home phone" as well, or you could forward it to a Skype number.

With a $2.95 a month Skype subscription and a Skype Online Number, $30 a year with a subscription, you can make your Google Voice number ring Skype on your PC or via a Skype Handset that looks and feels like a home phone.

My aching neck!
Now, to solve the uncomfortable portion of extended cell phone calls and the annoyance of being tethered to your computer for a Skype call we have several options. First, you can use a bluetooth headset with your cell phone or computer to make and receive calls comfortably. But if bluetooth isn't your thing (hate that thing in your ear, do you?), you can also get a phone that works with Skype.

There are numerous wired and wireless phones which work with Skype and may not need a computer turned on to use. Skype recommends the $32 Philips USB travel phone which plugs into your computer for calls, as well as the $169 cordless RTX Skype phone. Third party companies like Logitech also make wireless Skype phones that can be used in conjunction with a PC for around $60.

If you want to go retro and talk comfortably, the YUBZ Retro Handset can connect to your cell phone and give you a retro receiver like mom used back in the day for $55. You can also add an adapter to use it with Skype or purchase the YUBZ Talk Online for $80 to use exclusively with a computer. There are literally hundreds of ways to talk on your cell phone or computer without being uncomfortable or tethered to your PC. If one of these doesn't fit your tastes look around, you'll find something.

Hello 911?
Perhaps the biggest concern is what to do in an emergency if you have no landline. And for this problem, there is not yet a n easy, satisfying solution. Skype is upfront that it should not be used in an emergency. Cell phones, while much better than they were before Wireless e911, don't always route you to the nearest 911 center.

"In Northern California, a lot of cell phone 911 calls get routed to the Vallejo CHP dispatch and sit in the queue for a long time -- not good in an emergency," David Howard, a telecom industry veteran told WalletPop via email. Howard recommends adding your local emergency center's direct number, sometimes known as a public safety answering point, as a speed dial.

But wait! There's an app for that! If you have a smartphone, like the Motorola Droid, BlackBerry devices or the iPhone, you can download an app that makes it easier to call 911 and to connect to the correct call center. On Android phones, Emergency Dial ($1) can use GPS, which is more accurate than cell towers, to contact the correct local emergency center. On BlackBerry devices, the Panic Multi-Function Safety Button ($2.99) includes a loud repeating alarm and customizable 911 calls and can even send GPS coordinates to others in an emergency. On the iPhone, your best bet is to enter the number as a speed dial that you won't accidentally send.

Don't forget, in any emergency, staying calm is a key factor in getting the help you need.

Now that you know how to have one home phone ring everyone, how to talk more comfortably and what to do in an emergency without a landline, the only thing stopping you from ditching your landline is a bit of nostalgia and possibly a two-year contract with your current Internet, cable, home phone provider.
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