August 14, 2012

Using the Google Nexus 7 Tablet as a Phone, For Free (+ a Privacy Hint)

Update: 24 September 2012: GrooVe IP Lite now directly supports OAuth authentication, making it unnecessary to provide your Google passwords to the app -- and it only requests "chat" credentials. Using the app's OAuth authentication in this manner should be quite safe, and eliminates the concerns noted in this original posting which at the time resulted in recommending that you don't use your main Google accounts with GrooVe IP Lite. If you authenticate the app via OAuth (via any Google account already associated with your device -- you can switch between accounts in just a few seconds) you should be fine.


I don't usually do "how-to" postings, and I'll have much more comprehensive discussions of Android "Jelly Bean" and the Google Nexus 7 tablet later -- there are some really fascinating implications to how that ecosystem is developing.

But since quite a few people have been asking me if it's possible to use the Wi-Fi-based Nexus 7 as a phone, I thought I'd scribble out this quickie guide.

In short, yes, even though the N7 doesn't obviously have phone-related user interfaces, you can use the N7 as a phone for both outgoing and incoming calls via VoIP, and this can be accomplished completely for free via Google Voice accounts.

The fairly easy steps:

Obtain and install the (GIPL) app via Google Play. This version is free and has everything you need for this situation. You still might wish to purchase the full version for $5 to support the fine work of the developer.

GIPL has settings for most situations, including some "under the hood" tuning for echo cancellation and the like. Usually you don't need to alter most of these, except to determine if you want the app starting up automatically at boot and a couple of other options.

GIPL will ask for your Google Voice (GV) login/password credentials. This is the privacy-related aspect. Personally, just on general principles without casting any aspersions on GIPL, I would not use GIPL with a GV account that is also used for other purposes such as actual Gmail messages, Google+, etc. A separate GV account for use with GIPL is strongly recommend.

After you sign in to GV via GIPL, if the connection is successful a green dot will appear in the status bar. GIPL will provide a dialing pad (even generating imitation DTMF tones if you wish), integrate in your contacts, and offer other typical functions.

Dial an outgoing domestic U.S. call via the GIPL interface, and with luck you should be in business. Voice quality is fine with a good Wi-Fi connection.

Now at this point, you may get a displayed or verbal error message that your call was not completed. This usually means either that you forgot to include an area code, or the associated (and necessary) Google Chat environment isn't yet initialized.

Make sure that GIPL is connected (green dot in status bar). Go to your Google Voice settings (the gear icon + Settings), and select the Phones tab. If you don't see an entry for Google Chat, that's likely the problem.

Go to Gmail for this account, and click the phone handset icon on the left. A phone keyboard will appear. Make a call via this website-based mechanism -- call yourself on another phone, for example.

Now return to the GV Phones tab and refresh. You should now see a Google Chat entry. Configure its options as desired.

Your outgoing calls from the Nexus 7 via GIPL and GV should now function.

Click the Google Chat check box if you also want incoming calls to your Google Voice number to ring through to your Nexus 7 via GIPL (when you have GIPL running, of course).

The earpiece jack on the Nexus 7 apparently does not accept microphones (e.g., via TRRS plugs), but you can handle your calls via regular earphones in conjunction with the mics built into the tablet itself -- or with no earphones at all via the integral speakers. Also, many Bluetooth headsets are reportedly compatible as well.

That should be about it. Let me know if you discover any issues!

And please remember again that as a basic privacy consideration, using your main Google Account with GIPL is not recommended -- use a separate account if at all possible.

Additional comments and discussion regarding this configuration of the Nexus 7 can be viewed here after the main copy of this posting on Google+.

Happy calling!

--Lauren--

Update: 24 September 2012: GrooVe IP Lite now directly supports OAuth authentication, making it unnecessary to provide your Google passwords to the app -- and it only requests "chat" credentials. Using the app's OAuth authentication in this manner should be quite safe, and eliminates the concerns noted in this original posting which at the time resulted in recommending that you don't use your main Google accounts with GrooVe IP Lite. If you authenticate the app via OAuth (via any Google account already associated with your device -- you can switch between accounts in just a few seconds) you should be fine.

Posted by Lauren at August 14, 2012 06:45 PM | Permalink
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