Skype vs Google Voice - Final Showdown

by Fairhead Creative

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Every business owner is conscious of the ways he or she allows clients to get in touch with them. They should assess what tools they have available to them and make a call (so to speak) about which tools to use. They should be interested to find the best way to handle their business communications.

I’ve watched the Skype vs Google Voice debate for the last few years. They’re two services that look quite similar on the surface, and have caused divides of opinion for quite some time now.

Before we get into the fray though, let’s touch upon what each of these services actually are.


Skype is an international VOIP service based in Europe, that has earned its fame for the free Skype-to-Skype call services it offers for desktop and notebook computers. It’s free to sign up, and you’re presented with a buddy list not unlike the ones found with other services such as AIM, Yahoo Messenger and iChat. You can tap on a Skype buddy’s name and use voice, video or instant messaging to communicate. Skype charges additional fees if you would like to have a phone number, call forwarding, voicemail services, etc.

There are several other free and low-cost services that are viable alternatives to Skype, but none of them really come close to the same level of proliferation. Skype is available all over the world and has a very large user base, perhaps the most important attribute for an app-based voice service.

Google Voice

Google’s Voice is Google’s attempt to change a few things about how phone calls should work. They give you a phone number, and it can be configured to call all of your phones, instead of requiring people to call each of your numbers one-by-one in an attempt to get hold of you. Furthermore, it adds voicemail transcriptions, free SMS facilities, and a mobile app to interface with your configuration when you’re on the go. Unfortunately, Google Voice is only available in the US.

That’s what’s on the table here. (I know there’s a number of other services in this field and for those of you who are interested in those, you can bundle them up in Skype’s side of the ring for the duration of this article.)

Which is better?

So. Which is better? They both do phone services, both have SMS, voicemail, phone numbers, all that jazz. Which comes out on top?

Here’s the answer: They cannot be compared. Eh? Allow me to explain.

For the last few days I’ve had this very questions in the back of my mind. I’m in the position where I need to be thinking about getting another phone line for our business, and like any wise business owner, I weighed up the options available to us. Skype is a service that I use on a daily basis for business for calling other Skype-savvy clients. I could expand this with a subscription and get me a phone number to increase my Skypeyness. Google manages our mail, and is centric to our SEO efforts for our clients. Google has a phoney-voicey thing to offer too. I like ‘em both. How to choose?

Then it dawned on me, while walking through our house eating one of Mrs. Fairhead Creative’s delicious chocolate cookies. “They don’t do the same thing.”

Skype offers the ability to extend their VOIP service to a phone line, so that one’s VOIP reach breaks out of the VOIP world and into the Phone world too.

Google Voice takes whatever existing phone services you use, and gives them all a single number as a front-of-house that will then call all the other numbers.

Google Voice and Skype can work together.

Solution for your business

If you’re in the US, you use Skype regularly, and want it to become part of your phone world too, then pick up an Online Number and get rolling. If you have a Skype subscription, Online Numbers are discounted 50%, and call forwarding is free. You can then pick up a Google Voice number and attach the Skype Online Number to that number, so it will ring in the times of day you’d like to accept calls, and it won’t when you don’t. You can add your cell phone number too, and get called wherever you are.

If you’re outside the US and want a similar setup, Google Voice is not an option. But you can get yourself that Skype Online Number, and turn on Call Forwarding so that when you’re away from Skype, it can still call your cell phone. The only difference is that only one or the other will ring, in this instance.

Both solutions work great, and both will open up more options for your business calling.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and whether or not you can think of any other ways the two services can work together!

The comments below were ported from a previous version of our site when we used comments.

Chiro  March 18, 2011 at 2:39 am

Thank you for such a nicely written explanation of Skype vs Google Voice!

Pedabot  March 29, 2011 at 8:34 am

Man… I love that you took the time to compare these, but there’s a major bummer in here…

Google Voice-mail not working outside the U.S. :( A combo of Skype and GoogleVoice seemed like a real sweet deal, getting that elusive FREE voice-mail that I’ve craved for so long, yet it will not work in Europe yet.

Damn… Depressing.

Adam Fairhead  March 29, 2011 at 9:03 am

Right, Preda, it is a major bummer.

Skype has Voicemail functionality, and call forwarding so that it can go to your phone if you’re available, and will record your message if not, all for a pretty reasonable price.

RoTimi Waddy  March 30, 2011 at 5:17 pm

I, like the others who have commented on here appreciate this clear and precise writeup detailing the differences of the 2 services. I have had a Skype number for a couple of years now but have recently considered adding in the Google option since I am fortunately based in the U.S. and can fully utilize either or both services. Thanks again.

Adam Fairhead  March 30, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Glad it was helpful to you, RoTimi!

Ken  March 31, 2011 at 6:37 pm

I’m looking at starting 1 or 2 small specialized side businesses. I’d like them to have their own number, but don’t know how long before they bring in any money or if they’ll work.

I’m thinking of Google voice as it’s free and will direct the calls to my existing phones. And if things take off I can easily, and independently, forward the numbers elsewhere… I now find I have two questions:

1) When the phone rings will I know how to answer it? (Which number the person called in on.)

2) Under what conditions do I need to worry about loosing the number. (Does it need to receive at least one call a month?)

Adam Fairhead  March 31, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Hey Ken, you can use Google Voice’s preferences to specify what number to display when it rings your phone: the caller’s number, or the Google Voice number.

You can also set what numbers call what phones. If you’re routing multiple numbers to the same phone, you could have the Google Voice number display so that you know how to take the call. (Don’t forget that calls to the US are free if you ring from Gmail’s UI!)

As far as I’m aware, there aren’t any minimum usage requirements on a number. I haven’t come across any, at least!

Bill  April 11, 2011 at 10:57 am

Does the incoming caller have to pay for their call? If so, can your number act like a 800 number. Thx

Adam Fairhead  April 11, 2011 at 1:28 pm

In the instance of Google Talk, the call is totally free for the Google Talk user, sending and receiving, providing the call is a national one. If someone calls the Google Talk number, they have to pay like they normally would.

Similarly, if you use Google Talk through your mobile, only the Google Talk part of the call is free;the actual phone you’re dialing from will charge you normal data usage.

It’s phone fee + free Google Talk usage, not free call + free Google Talk. Hope that makes sense!

Daveni  October 16, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Damn I’m late to the party here but I have things to add
I learned you can use skype credit/subscription on a regular mobile phone by using a ‘skype to go number’. The catch is that you need to add the numbers you will be calling into your skype account ahead of time. Does Google Voice allow you to call from a regular cell phone?

My plan is to ditch my smartphone and just use an iPad with 3G and bluetooth and a tracfone. I really don’t want to look like the ‘KungFu’ actor with a satchel carrying my iPad around all the time so when I go naked with just a tracfone, I will be able to make use my skype plan…to call numbers input into skype ahead of time.

I’m just blind on google voice and if it can be added into the plan I mentioned. Let me know your thoughts.

Adam Fairhead  October 16, 2011 at 6:25 pm

If my memory serves me well Daveni, Skype out calls can be made from any device with a cell connection + the Skype app installed. It makes the whole connection via the cell line at that point. That goes for smartphones and feature phones alike.

Beyond that, the app can be used without a cell connection providing you’re on a wifi connection (which is something I’ve used my iPad for on a number of occasions)

Steve  January 17, 2012 at 3:27 pm


This is a great article! I was just talking about using Skype for my voiceover business for phone patch set ups.

A question came up on my LinkedIn account asking what is the difference between using the Skype phone number as apposed to a Google Voice number. Would you mind if I noted what you wrote here with a direct link to your blog from mine?

Let me know. Thanks!


Adam Fairhead  January 17, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Go right ahead, thanks Steve!

Darleana  January 18, 2012 at 3:32 pm

I appreciate the article. I am in the U.S. and I use Skype and google. I call Africa a lot and there is no comparison in the rates. I have Skype credit and I can call Kenya for .36 plus other charges. A 17 second call cost me about .65 I left a message. Google charges .15 without any extra stuff. I use credits on both because I want access. If I can determine how to use google voice on my iphone, then I will use it more to call mobiles in Africa.

Adam Fairhead  January 18, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Great to hear, Darleana! Google Voice has an iPhone app, however the calls do connect through the carrier, which means you’ll probably incur some fees.
As inconvenient as it sometimes is, using it from the desktop is the cheapest way to go.

Rogerio  April 9, 2012 at 10:56 am

Adam and Darleana, it looks like if you use the app called Talkatone, which lets you make phone calls using your google voice account, that you would not pay the carrier fees for the call. One way to be sure is to be connected to a wifi connection.

Adam Fairhead  April 9, 2012 at 11:14 am

Hi Rogerio, thanks for the heads up! I gave Talkatone a try a few months ago and, while the UI is a little clumsy, it certainly seems to work as you describe, when on wifi.

I’m not sure you can make free calls without wifi though – carriers have denied that “feature” for obvious reasons.

Ferragamo  May 23, 2012 at 7:37 pm

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Lon Ron  May 24, 2012 at 11:20 pm

Awesome, thanks for this!

Eliseo Woloszczak  May 29, 2012 at 2:29 pm

You made some nice points there. I looked on the internet for the subject and found most guys will go along with with your website.

Sole  June 2, 2012 at 1:42 am

I love the art style in this post.

Aaron Klapheck  June 2, 2012 at 5:14 pm

Actually there is a Google Voice app which lets you use your data network to make calls over VoIP ( I have been using this over Verizon’s data network for several weeks now and it work great. I send and receive ALL of my phone calls through this app for free. It only uses data, which is pretty much nothing. Only one of my friends uses Skype, the last time I checked only 1% of the population regularly uses skype on their mobile phone. So for me the choose is simple.
Skype charges you to talk with 99% of people in the USA.
Google charges you NOTHING to talk with 100% of people in the USA.
Perhaps if you make a lot of foreign calls Skype is good, because otherwise I don’t see why anyone would use it.

If I want to do a video chat I simply use Google+ hang out. Not that many people use Google+, but Google is currently working on make video chats possible from any device (done for the android and computers) to any video conference software (Skype, IM, etc). This would allow me to use
Google+ to have a video chat with anyone on any device running any video chat software (except maybe Apple who bans almost all free Google products).

Dem  June 11, 2012 at 7:06 am

Excellent blog here!

Nydia  June 15, 2012 at 7:59 am

Great insights, thanks!

Launa  September 28, 2012 at 5:14 pm

Good write-up. Love this site.

Giana Forzareli  October 16, 2012 at 12:38 pm

I am a huge fan of Google products to the point where I have a Google sticker on my bumper. I know it is a little excessive, but I am a fan. I have always been curious to see if call center order taking could be done on one of these platforms. It would cut costs and could be managed all through Google’s interface.