iPhone + Google Voice + A-list = Win (Sort of)

While AT&T, Google, and Apple battle things out at the FCC, Google Voice and AT&T’s A-list make for an interesting combination (that probably is against AT&T’s rules).

Last month, AT&T announced the A-list which allows qualifying AT&T customers the ability to assign up to 5 numbers, 10 on a family plan, to call and receive calls from those numbers without using your cell phone minutes. This feature competes with similar offers from other carriers. You need to log in to your AT&T wireless account online in order to manage your A-list. Once you have added numbers to your A-list, it will take about 24 hours or more for AT&T to approve and make them active. Once they’re active then you’re good to call away.

I also happen to have a Google Voice number, after burning through 8 or so family and work numbers, I wondered what would happen if I added my Google Voice number to the A-list.

First, the legal disclaimer from AT&T’s terms of service:

A-List is available only with Nation plans $59.99 a month or higher or AT&T FamilyTalk plans $89.99 a month or higher. Nation Plan subscribers can place calls to up to 5 wireline or wireless telephone numbers without being charged for airtime minutes. FamilyTalk subscribers can place calls to up to 10 wireline or wireless telephone numbers without being charged for airtime minutes. Only standard domestic landline or wireless numbers may be added. Directory assistance, 900 numbers, customer’s own wireless or Voice Mail access numbers, and machine to machine numbers are not eligible. Only voice calling is eligible. All qualifying lines on a FamilyTalk account share the same 10 A-List numbers. A-List number selections may only be managed online via MyWireless Account. Selected telephone numbers do not become active until 24 hours after added. AT&T reserves the right to block any A-List number and to reduce the amount of telephone numbers that can be used for A-List without notice.

I’m not sure if a Google Voice number falls within these definitions. On the other hand, my Google Voice number has served as my “landline phone number” even back when Google Voice was grandcentral.com. With a flimsy rationalization in hand, I added my Google Voice number to the list.

I was surprised to discover that my GV number was accepted and active on the A-list. I thought that perhaps AT&T had some sort of sophisticated way of filtering out unwanted numbers, then I remembered that I still can’t tether my iPhone. So with another rationalization, it was time to test things out.

Since Apple and Google are fighting over why we don’t have a native iPhone/GV app, Google has the web-app version at http://www.google.com/voice. From there you can enter a number and your Google Voice number will dial all your devices (home, office, cell, compatible VOIP client) and once you answer it will dial the other number and connect the two. So as far as AT&T knows, a number on my A-list called my phone.


The real test came the next day when I was out of the office and invited to join a conference call at the last minute. I put in the conference call number into Google Voice on Safari and in a couple of seconds the phone started ringing and I joined the conference. Now my wife has at least 60 more minutes this month to talk to people who are not on our A-list.

Bottom line, the experiment worked. For completeness, you can alter the way GV handles incoming calls by having it use your GV number as the caller ID instead of the number calling.

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This way, whether you tell GV to call a number or someone calls you, it all appears as a number on your A-list to AT&T as long as you don’t mind not knowing who is calling. Keep in mind, AT&T may not react kindly to what they see as a violation of their terms of service (I’m sure they don’t care how you see it). Therefore, I can’t recommend trying any of this. But I don’t mind telling you what I found.