Looking for a US-Based Phone Number for my Japanese iPhone

I'm looking for recommendations on getting a US phone number on my Japanese cell phone, via VOIP. I currently have such a thing with Skype, but their app and feature design are gratuitously stupid... just amazingly dumb.

My needs are simple... I pay a fee to get a US-based phone number, and when someone dials that number, it rings on an app on my iPhone. And using that same app, I can dial out. Voice messages a bonus.

I'd like to use Vonage's app (I've been a normal Vonage customer for a decade), but it doesn't work with Japanese phones.

Recommendations?


All 20 comments so far, oldest first...

I am very happy with https://voice.google.com for such purposes domestically. I did not test it from an outside of the USA network connection. There may be some regulatory predicaments which will not allow Google to deliver what you want. It is free to try, though.

From what I can tell, this would give a US phone number that merely forwards to my Japanese number (so I’d still be paying roaming charges). If that’s the case, the only benefit would be the convenience of telling folks a US number, compared to trying to explain how to dial my Japanese number directly. —Jeffrey

— comment by Vlad on March 17th, 2016 at 4:36am JST (1 year, 4 months ago) comment permalink

Google Voice, if you’re not opposed to the Google-Borg.

Pinger/TextFree

— comment by Jacob on March 17th, 2016 at 5:22am JST (1 year, 4 months ago) comment permalink

The Google Hangouts app works with google voice over IP. I used it in England to get calls to my US google voice number.

— comment by Jacob on March 17th, 2016 at 5:47am JST (1 year, 4 months ago) comment permalink

Nope, Google Voice can “ring” the Hangout app, as well as forwarding it to other various numbers. Details: https://support.google.com/hangouts/answer/6079064?co=GENIE.Platform%3DiOS&hl=en&oco=0

I’ve given it a try, thanks. When a call comes in it seems to buzz on my Apple Watch, but not on the phone. Not ideal, but I’ll give it a try, thanks! —Jeffrey

— comment by Bill on March 17th, 2016 at 6:20am JST (1 year, 4 months ago) comment permalink

I second Google Voice. You have the option to forward a Google Voice number to any other US number (not international) but it is not required that you do so.

The Google Hangouts app on both iOS and Android will ring for incoming calls and allow you to make outgoing calls. It also supports incoming and outgoing SMS as well as voice mail that is transcribed to text.

Calls to North American numbers are free for upto 60 or 90 minutes (don’t recall) at a stretch, but there is no limit to how many calls you can make. If you get cut off, just redial. Also SMS to North American numbers are free.

Hope this helps! Been using it for years all over the world with no issues whatsoever.

-Muppet

Calls don’t seem to be free (the app quoted $0.03/min to call a local number), but I don’t mind paying if it actually works. Giving it a try! —Jeffrey

— comment by muppet on March 17th, 2016 at 7:17am JST (1 year, 4 months ago) comment permalink

After obtaining a phone number you can use Google Hangouts for a pure VOIP experience.

— comment by Vlad on March 17th, 2016 at 7:56am JST (1 year, 4 months ago) comment permalink

A friend of mine recommended IPPI. I had a quick look at their website and it seem to be exactly what you need, especially the virtual number option. ( ^^)v

Thanks. I gave it a look, and don’t feel too comfortable… the feeling of the site makes me worry that my financial information might not be safe there. The site and their security measures seem sloppy. Not going to take the risk. —Jeffrey

— comment by Damien on March 19th, 2016 at 9:01pm JST (1 year, 4 months ago) comment permalink

Get sonetel for incoming calls forwarded to your mobile, then get
intervoip to dial out via voip. with intervoip you may register any number as “your caller id” as long as you can receive a 4-digit confirmation via text.

if worried about your creditcard data, get an entropay virtual visa card (to pay for these services)

hope that works out for you, let us know in a blog post

— comment by robox on March 22nd, 2016 at 9:50pm JST (1 year, 4 months ago) comment permalink

I also use Google voice to receive calls to a US number in my phone. Also works for SMS messages. Used IPKall back in the days when they operated to get a US number DID to SIP. Now it seems that callcentric also gives out free NY State DIDs, but I’ve never used it.

— comment by Tiago on March 22nd, 2016 at 10:12pm JST (1 year, 4 months ago) comment permalink

I came to use your GPS tool for looking at images (thanks for making that available) and saw this posting.

We switched from Vonage.ca to callcentric.com a bit over a year ago and have been happy with their service and features in combination with a Grandstream HT702 for our house phone needs. We ported our land line number from Vonage to them here in SE Ontario, Canada. They seem to be able to be used with various software products for use on iPhones (I think I tested “Linphone” with them successfully) but I don’t know how well they would work for your particular use case – running an app constantly to keep up with a rare incoming call seems likely to hit the battery pretty hard. I could be handy for saving on international calling rates though.

— comment by johann beda on March 23rd, 2016 at 1:50am JST (1 year, 4 months ago) comment permalink

Well, I gave Google Voice (via the Hangouts app) a try and it’s mind-boggelingly disappointing.

I got a Google Voice phone number and paid for some time, and today gave the number out so someone could call me back. Later in the day, I got a notification on my Apple Watch (via the Hangouts app) that a call was coming in, and I scrambled to get to the phone in time to answer it, only to find absolutely no indication in the Hangouts app that a call had even come in. There was nothing in the app nor the phone’s Notification Center, and by this time it was gone from the watch as well. I know that the notification on the watch had shown a phone number, but now that information was lost.

Later when I got home, I checked Google Voice in my browser and found the call listed, along with a transcript of a voicemail that was left. Just to make sure, I went back to the Hangouts app on my phone and still see no indication whatsoever that there had been any activity at all today.

Because I relied on this over other methods of communication, it is worse than worthless.

— comment by Jeffrey Friedl on March 23rd, 2016 at 6:17am JST (1 year, 4 months ago) comment permalink

One other app you could try is Magic App. It’s based of Magic Jack which many of my overseas relatives in Asia use. I have not used it myself, but they speak highly of it. This app can be used in conjunction with the Magic Jack itself or solo.

The link to the website with more information (there’s both iOS and android versions which you can get in the respective mobile stores)

http://www.magicjack.com/magicApp.html

I found a video review showing the iOS app UI:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnzPj-uT4A4

I hope this may be of use to you. I am not associated with the company in any way other than some overseas relatives who apparently love the Magic Jack version because they can get US local numbers for it. I am not a big fan of Skype myself, and am using Google Voice just to keep my old number around but would not rely on it for a regular number.

— comment by Anna M. on March 29th, 2016 at 8:27am JST (1 year, 4 months ago) comment permalink

Dear Jeffrey… I feel your pain and hear your frustration. But I think in this case the problem lies with Apple/iOS. As wonderful as they are with certain features, they restrict access to many of the iPhone’s key apps/interfaces.

Both Hangouts Dialer and Skype work beautifully on our Android phones – and we (my wife and I) have been using them all over the world (Asia, Africa, Europe, NA) for several years.

We receive calls seamlessly via wifi and mobile data and the quality is generally very good (and has been getting even better lately with 3G/4G connection quality improving). Their dialers are roughly the same as the default dealer and access my contact list directly (I could also use them as my default dealer, overriding the phone dealer, but choose to not do this). You can also choose any ring-tone you like. … Don’t get me wrong — there are occasional glitches with dropped calls or voice echoes, but frankly no more than we see with standard cell connections.

A couple of thoughts for you:

1. I presume that you went into the iOS Hangouts menu-options and set Hangouts as the default for incoming Google Voice calls? Apple forces this to be done manually.
https://support.google.com/hangouts/answer/6079064?co=GENIE.Platform%3DiOS&hl=en

2. While it doesn’t solve your entire problem, I would guess you are aware that you can auto-forward Skype calls from the US (or any other Skype-In location) to any overseas location, e.g. to your Japan cell or home phone. You can set Skype to do this instantly (e.g. first ring) or after X rings. Skype charges you (not your caller) for the cost of forwarding (e.g. 11 cents per minute to cell, 2 cents per minute to a landline). The quality is very good as the last mile connection is over your usual carrier. This doesn’t address your desire to dial out easily, but at least makes it simple for your US family and friends to reach you reliably.

3. My parents and aunts and uncles are in their 80’s. After using this Skype-number system with them for several years, even they have started just poking my name on their favorite chat app (WhatsApp, Skype, Hangouts) to voice-call me directly. It’s not for everyone, but most of my frequent callers use that channel now… including text chat, which surprised me 🙂

Kind regards,
Jay

— comment by Jay on March 30th, 2016 at 1:33pm JST (1 year, 4 months ago) comment permalink

I wonder whether I should just get a cheap Android smartphone, just for Skype/Google Voice? Recommendations, anyone?

— comment by Jeffrey Friedl on March 30th, 2016 at 8:53pm JST (1 year, 4 months ago) comment permalink

My daughter is currently teaching in Japan we use Viber to make all of our calls.

— comment by Rick Abshier on April 3rd, 2016 at 12:08am JST (1 year, 4 months ago) comment permalink

If you want a cheap Android smart phone, you can consider getting a Nexus 5x or a Motorola G. The Motorola G is about $200 or a little less. The Nexus 5x is useful just because it’ll get updates for some time from Google. The plus side is that it will work with every carrier in the USA. I had a Moto G when it was Google owned, it was great and updates were frequent, but under Lenovo it’s gotten far worse with updates. Still, if you want a cheap phone with stock-ish Android, it’s your best bet.

I currently own a Nexus 5x, it’s a great phone, slightly on the big side for me though. If you’re willing to do the paperwork, the 5x should be available for just under $300 if you sign up for the Google Fi promotion, for a 32 gig version. You can cancel after a month. Otherwise it would run you closer to $380.

Alvin from NYC.

— comment by Alvin on April 3rd, 2016 at 11:35am JST (1 year, 4 months ago) comment permalink

One upside of the Nexus 5X (about $200 now) is that you can use it with Google Fi ( fi.google.com )

Google Fi has some nice features: It can be used in almost every country with data at a flat $10 per GB and voice calls between free and $0.20 a minute… the perfect travel phone. Gogle Fi integrates with Google Voice and Hangouts, so you can also make/receive calls on PCs, Macs, Tablets and so on.

The Nexus 6P is also a great phone. But it is much more expensive and reports are that the successor should be coming out in the next couple of months.

— comment by Jay on April 10th, 2016 at 6:34pm JST (1 year, 3 months ago) comment permalink

You might consider Ooma. It is more costly than Skype (an upfront device purchase and a Premier subscription required for receiving calls) and the apps are basic (iOS better than Android), but otherwise does meet your requirements.

http://support.ooma.com/home/ooma-app-faq

Actually, I’m in the middle of testing Ooma. I’ll write a blog post about it, but in short on the recommendation of a friend I got an Ooma for my mom for use in the hospital, and I liked it so much I have one on order for myself. It let me link her number to my Japanese iPhone — something that Vonage won’t let me do — so I’ll dump Vonage for Ooma. I’ve been with Vonage for well over a decade, and thought that the inability to support their app on my iPhone was some kind of technical limitation, but now I see it’s just policy, so bye-bye Vonage. —Jeffrey

— comment by Wing on April 15th, 2016 at 7:32pm JST (1 year, 3 months ago) comment permalink

did you check voip.ms ?

— comment by Cyril on April 24th, 2016 at 1:06am JST (1 year, 3 months ago) comment permalink

Coming to you from Maine.Go to the Hangouts app.Go to menu(upper left corner).Go to settings.In settings,click on your google phone number.It’s about half way down between “Blocked people” and “Sync contacts”.In there you will see options for “Incoming phone calls” and “Messages”.Turn them on and your phone will ring from the Hangouts app and you will receive message notifications.I have a Verizon data only sim in my sim-free iPhone SE and use the Hangouts app exclusively for calls.

— comment by Peter K. on September 11th, 2016 at 10:45pm JST (10 months, 10 days ago) comment permalink
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