Android Intelligence Advice

How to make free calls from your own number on any old phone

Turn your old Android phone into a functional extension of your current device with one download and two minutes of setup.

Free Calls From Old Phone
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Ah, the holidays. A time for relaxing, enjoying oversized meals, and making semi-annual phone calls to relatives you don't really like.

Hey, I'm not here to judge. I just thought our upcoming Thanksgiving weekend and soon-to-follow Festivus season seemed like a perfect time to talk about an easily overlooked option that's waiting to be embraced (in a totally platonic and consensual manner, of course): the ability to turn any old phone into an active call-making device connected to your current number, courtesy of Google.

Why bother? Good question, Gilbert. I think the real question, though, is: Why not? If you've got an old phone sitting around and growing crusty, this'll give it a genuinely practical new purpose. You could keep it on your desk at work, in case you ever forget your regular phone; keep it in your travel bag as a backup, in case your battery dies during a layover; toss it in your glove box and have it as a ready-to-roll emergency phone; or take it with you to the gym and avoid the risk of banging weights against your purty new primary phone whilst you buff and shine that marvelous torso.

Capisce? Capisce. So here's the deal: Google's Hangouts service (which, against all odds, is mostly still a thing as of now) has a hidden option to take on the identity of your current mobile number. Once configured, it'll let you place calls to and from compatible countries using your own number via any available data connection.

That means it'll work with pretty much any old Android device — phone or tablet — so long as a Wi-Fi connection is actively available. If you use Project Fi, you can take it a step further and order a free data-only SIM that'll let you make on-the-go calls over mobile networks, too, at minimal extra cost. (You'll pay only for the amount of data used, at the same regular rate associated with your account.)

All you've gotta do is follow these steps, which should take you a grand total of two to four minutes at the most:

Step 1: Download Google's Hangouts Dialer app onto your old Android phone

It's a separate app from the regular Hangouts app — though you'll need that one, too, so go ahead and grab it if you don't already have it.

(This should all work via the single Hangouts app for iOS, too, by the way, so don't hesitate to give it a whirl if you've got an old iPhone or iPad sitting around and just drowning in its magical fairy dust.)

Step 2: Verify your phone number with Google

Open up that freshly installed Hangouts Dialer app on your mobile device and head over to its settings (within the main menu on the left side of the screen). Tap the Google account you want to use, then find the option to verify your phone number.

Tap it and follow the steps that appear. Google will send a PIN to the number you provide, so it'll have to be an actual working mobile number (or at the very least a virtual one that's able to receive SMS messages). Once you put in the PIN, your number will be verified — and you'll almost be ready to dial the day away.

Step 3: Tell Hangouts to use your number for outgoing calls

In that same app settings menu, you should now see an option labeled "Outbound Caller ID." Tap it, and you'll be able to tell Google to use your actual phone number anytime you make a call through Hangouts. Once that's done, for all practical purposes, placing a call through Hangouts will be just like making a call from your current phone.

And that's all there is to it! You can now simply open up the Hangouts Dialer app and dial to your heart's content.

So happy Thanksgiving — and happy calling. Send my regards to your Great Aunt Gladys, wouldja?

More holiday productivity fun: 20 great uses for an old Android device

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