How to Do Text Forwarding with Google Voice 2021

Forward Google Voice Messages to SMS/Your Cellphone

Google Voice just turned off “message forwarding to linked numbers” and yeah, that’s a big deal. Thanks a lot, Google. But there’s a pretty simple if ugly workaround that I’ve yet to see written up so it’s not quite time to give up on Voice.

Why Message Forwarding to Linked Numbers Is a Big Deal

Voice used to be a fantastic utility layer you could add to your cellphone. Instead of giving out your true phone number, you could give out a Google Voice number, and use it to route intelligently all your texts and calls. Want your texts to go to your brother’s phone when you’re in class, but not on weekends? Sure. Want your incoming calls to ring three burners but not before 8 AM? No problem. And if your phone number changes, all you have to do is update the setting in Google Voice — no more spamming your friends with your new number.

Well, Google just shut down the whole text message part of the picture. No more message forwarding to other numbers.

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The Fix Is… Gmail

As many have noted on Reddit and Androidpolice and elsewhere, you can get Voice to forward your incoming text messages to email. So… that’s nice. Wouldn’t it be nicer if you could get your email to autoforward those messages to your cellphone? Wouldn’t that do the same damned thing as what Voice was doing in the first place?

Kind of. It’s uglier. A lot uglier. And you can’t reply to it to get a message back to the sender. But at least you’ll get the message and know that something urgent is going down, even if you have a bad data connection.

Anyhow, here’s the trick.

  1. First, find out what the email address is for your cellphone. “Email address for my cellphone huh?” you may be asking. Yeah, the email for your phone. Almost all providers have an email address for each customer, like 5558761234@txt.att.net; emails sent to that address will be converted to texts and delivered to the customer. Here’s an article on the topic that has a handy list of email formats for popular carriers. If you use an MVNO, try the format for the carrier that your MVNO licenses from. Email your phone to make sure it’s working.
  2. In Google Voice, go to Settings > Messages and turn on “Forward messages to email.”
  3. Assuming you use Gmail, switch to Gmail. (If you don’t use Gmail, that’s okay; you just need to do these same steps with your mail provider’s forwarding rules.)
  4. In the inbox, type “from:txt.voice.google.com” into the Search mail box at the top. If your message forwarding to email hasn’t kicked in yet, you may not find anything, but that’s ok. Now click the goofy settings icon to the right of the X button in the search bar and click Create Filter in the dropdown that appears.
  5. Next to “Forward it to” is a link to “Add a forwarding address”. That’s the stuff. Click that and put in the email address for your phone. Google Voice will require you to authenticate.
  6. Once authenticated, click the “Forward it to” checkbox and choose the email address for your phone. Click “Create filter” and you are almost done.
  7. Repeat steps 4 and 6 for the search “from:voice-noreply@google.com“. This is the email address that Google Voice uses to notify you of group texts. You won’t get the actual content, but at least you’ll know when your buddies are trying to get you for a hang.
  8. OPTIONAL: SteveTN writes, “Problem I have found is that the forward to my mobile number from Gmail is usually not immediate. I have texts that take over a half hour.” This is a good point. Gmail is not exactly snappy. Suggestion: use your own outgoing mail server! If you have a website (and who doesn’t?), use that mail server. If not, you can sign up for a SMTP email service. (Sendinblue’s forever free basic plan sends 300 emails per day; that should cover you, right?) Then just go to Gmail’s settings > Accounts and click on “edit info” for the account you’re using to send your messages.

Is this anywhere as clean as the original Google Voice message forwarding? Hell no. You’ll have stupid formatting and all the extra text that Google Voice puts in its email notifications, and as I mentioned before, replying to these texts via text is pointless. But at least you won’t be in the dark if your data craps out and your friends are desperately trying to reach you.

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3 Comments

  1. I’ve tested this out when it was first announced that Google Voice would stop forwarding texts to mobile numbers. Problem I have found is that the forward to my mobile number from Gmail is usually not immediate. I have texts that take over a half hour before Gmail forwards them to my mobile number. That kind of defeats the entire reason of forwarding in the first place.

  2. That’s definitely a downside. It’s been working well for me lately but it’s certainly jankier than before.
    The delay could be on your cell provider’s email processing. Also worth noting: I’m using my shared hosting mail server for outgoing mail :) THAT could be a big factor. I’m gonna add that to the post.
    Of course, Voice itself sometimes seems to have outages where messages are delayed, too.
    Thanks, SteveTN!

  3. I’m not sure using a separate outgoing mail server is going to fix the problem. At least it didn’t for me. I signed up for a Sendinblue free account, and setup it up as a second “Send mail as” in the Gmail Settings – “Account and Import”. I even made it my default sending address. The problem is the filters don’t use the “default” address for forwarding, but rather the original @gmail.com address. It even states that in the Gmail Help article “Send emails from a different address or alias” (https://support.google.com/mail/answer/22370#zippy=%2Cmy-recipients-see-my-gmail-address), Your recipients might also see your original @gmail.com address if you: Create a filter with automated response.

    I know it wasn’t my cell provider’s email processing because I was able to get immediate text responses when sending an email directly to **********@txt.att.net through different email clients and using the Sendinblue SMTP server without using the filter. For some reason the filter puts the brakes on forwarding to the text email address. Yesterday I had messages that didn’t get forwarded to my text number for over 6 hours.

    Finally, I did get it to work almost immediately by having the Gmail filter forward the message to a different email address (not text number address), then wrote a rule on that email client to forward to my **********@txt.att.net email address. I just wish Google Voice let you cut out the Gmail middle man, and let you forward to a verified email address of your choosing, as they do in Gmail itself.

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