All right, quiz time: In a single sentence, can you tell me exactly what Google Voice does?

It’s a question even the most giddy Google-appreciating geeks struggle to answer succinctly — and for normal, non-tech-obsessed Homo sapiens, the answer typically falls somewhere between “Huh?” and “Wait, is that the same thing as gChat?”

Really, it’s no surprise. Google Voice is one of Google’s most complex, confusing, and poorly promoted services. But it’s also one of its most powerful — if you take the time to figure out exactly what it does and how it can work for you.

And especially if you’re using your phone for any manner of business, it can make a night-and-day difference in your ability to stay as connected and productive as possible, no matter where you’re working or what type of device you’re using at any given moment. Without exaggeration, it’ll completely change the way you think about your modern mobile devices and what a phone number even is.

Consider this your unofficial guide to getting started with Google Voice and then getting the most out of the underappreciated but potential-packed service.

The Google Voice business basics

We’ll start with the basics — and go back to that question I posed at the beginning of this conversation: What exactly is Google Voice?

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