A call forwarding app can help you avoid missing client calls and prevent you from keeping clients on hold for too long.
However, you may be missing altogether what you really need as a business if you use just basic call forwarding. In this article, we’ll share key scenarios where other business phone features are a better fit than a free call forwarding app. Then we’ll compare the best solutions that can provide a better calling experience to both you and your customers.
3 scenarios where you need more than a free call forwarding app
Sure, you can get a call forwarding app for free. But basic call forwarding apps don’t address the underlying issues businesses need to tackle. Here are three scenarios where you’ll need a more feature-rich phone system that a free app generally lacks:
1. When you need to turn on call forwarding as you’re out of the country
Many mobile carriers make it difficult to take calls from your phone when traveling internationally — forcing you to buy a new plan or pay roaming charges. If you forget to enable call forwarding on many desk phones, you also can’t set up call forwarding once you’re away.
This is why you should consider getting a virtual phone number. A virtual number lets you call and text from your computer or smartphone (with the right provider — keep reading and we’ll break down the best) as long as you have a solid internet connection. That way, you don’t have to worry about call forwarding, as you can work from anywhere. If you’re ever somewhere without WiFi, you can still enable call forwarding to take calls from your cell phone.
Best of all, you can also continue making and receiving calls without any additional charges with a virtual number.
2. When you want to split the responsibility for incoming calls
Looking to share responsibility for calls from your team’s main, customer-facing number? Or perhaps you’re out of the office and someone needs to fill in for you?
A free call forwarding app can’t help you do that. You’ll need a virtual number on a platform like OpenPhone that allows sharing access to phone numbers.
All team members with access to the phone number will hear their phone ring when someone calls as long as they have an active internet connection and don’t have their notifications muted. So when you’re unavailable, your teammate can share the workload and answer calls for you.
You can even see when teammates are on a call with someone or drafting a text.
3. When you want your team to have set shifts for answering calls
You may not be responsible for answering calls the entire day. But when you use a free call forwarding app, it will likely redirect all incoming calls. If you’re not using a business phone system, you won’t be able to set expectations with an away voicemail greeting that plays after hours, informing callers your team is out of the office.
In OpenPhone, you can also set up a work schedule on a shared number, so each team member can specify when they’re available to take calls based on specific time windows.
You can also set up auto-replies to automatically text callers who attempt to reach you but don’t leave a message. Those callers then can share their questions or requests via text — saving your team time.
7 top call forwarding apps for iPhone, Android, and computer
While there are many call forwarding apps, here are the seven best options for forwarding important calls that can also help your business provide your customers the best experience possible.
OpenPhone is the modern cloud phone system for startups and small businesses. Once you get a new number from OpenPhone or port your existing number, setting up call forwarding is easy.
OpenPhone offers far more than call forwarding. With an OpenPhone plan, you can call and text anyone in the US or Canada for free. You can also work together more effortlessly in OpenPhone. Along with sharing access to a business phone number, you can leave comments visible only to your team and tag teammates to collaborate on responses.
Keep in mind again also you can configure your business number to ring only during a specific time window. OpenPhone lets you set your availability so your phone only rings when someone calls during your workday.
With OpenPhone, you can also redirect calls you’ve already answered using call transfer. This allows you to connect the caller directly with an appropriate person rather than having to ask them to call a different number.
You can configure OpenPhone to send notifications for missed calls (and also notifications for missed voicemail and text messages). OpenPhone will automatically notify you about these via email or Slack. So, even if you miss a call, you (or your team) can quickly call back as soon as you see the notification.
- US, Canadian, and North American toll-free number options
- Unlimited calls and texting in the US and Canada
- Unlimited SMS and MMS in the US and Canada
- Forward text messages to any email address or Slack channel
- Auto-attendant (also called Interactive Voice Response or IVR)
- Call recording
- Affordable international calling rates
- Integrations for customer relationship management (CRM) systems, Slack, Gong, Zapier, and more
- Auto-replies, snippets, scheduled text messages, and other ways to save time texting
- Desktop and mobile apps (Windows, Apple devices, and Android phones)
- Standard: $13 per user per month
- Premium: $20 per user per month to access call transferring, analytics, CRM integrations, and more
Try out OpenPhone free for yourself and get a virtual number (or easily port any existing number to OpenPhone. To get started, sign up for a free trial.
2. Google Voice
Google Voice also has the call forwarding feature, though with a few limitations. The primary drawback is that Google Voice’s free version was built for personal use, not business. It’s not even available outside the US. You can switch to one of Google Voice’s paid plans. However, you must have an active Google Workspace subscription, which costs an extra $6 per user per month. This brings your total cost for each user to at least $16 per month.
To forward calls, you need to “link” numbers to your Google Voice account. However, you can only link up to six numbers. You also can’t link numbers that are already linked to another Google Voice number.
All linked numbers ring when someone calls your Google Voice number, or you can select the linked numbers or devices that receive calls. However, you can’t create a work schedule to only receive calls during a specific time window. Keep in mind also any incoming texts won’t forward to any number you link to Google Voice.
Google Voice’s limited features might work for you if you’re a solopreneur or just starting your company. However, if you need more business-centric features or to collaborate on communication with your team, consider other services like Google Voice.
- Unlimited calling
- SMS and MMS support
- Group text messaging
- Call recording
- Starter: $10 per user per month (plus $6 per user per month for a Google Workspace subscription)
- Standard: $20 per user per month to access on-demand call recordings, ring groups, and phone menus
- Premier: $30 per user per month to access automatic call recordings and advanced reporting
Line2 allows basic call forwarding. You can list phone numbers to forward calls to.
With Line2, you can forward calls to the listed numbers in sequence or ring all numbers simultaneously. Alternatively, you can choose to ring only one number first. If that call goes unanswered, Line2 then forwards it to the listed numbers.
Line2 also offers features like call blocking, call screening, and voicemail transcriptions. But you can’t get missed call notifications or shared access to phone numbers, and there’s no opportunity to set your business hours with Line2. Other key features are also missing from Line2 including integrations, snippets, and auto-replies.
Bottom line: Line2’s price ($13.75 per month) is high for what their service offers.
- Unlimited calls to the US and Canada
- Caller ID
- Call recording
- Voicemail transcriptions
- $13.75 per user per month
Grasshopper offers a good number of call forwarding features. You can add a list of numbers you want to forward calls to. When someone calls, all these numbers should receive incoming call notifications. You can also create custom schedules to forward calls to specific numbers during a specific time of the day.
Even though Grasshopper has good call forwarding features, it has several shortcomings. For example, you don’t get shared phone numbers or call recordings. And it doesn’t integrate with popular tools like Slack, Gmail, and CRM systems.
Their pricing structure also may force you to switch to a Grasshopper alternative as your team grows. Grasshopper recommends its second-most expensive plan ($46 per month) that includes three numbers. As your team gets bigger, you’ll need to either pay $10 per month for additional numbers — or switch to the highest-tier custom plan that comes with an even higher price tag ($80 per month).
- Call transfer
- Custom greetings
- Voicemail transcription
- Call screening and blocking
- Instant text response when there’s no answer
- Solo plan: $28 per month for one number and three extensions
- Partner plan: $46 per month for three numbers and six extensions
- Small business plan: $80 per month for five numbers and eight extensions
Nextiva offers extensive call forwarding settings. You can choose to forward calls directly or only when you don’t answer them like you can on other services.
But with Nextiva, you can also redirect specific calls. For example, you can forward calls from a particular number during lunch hours to a colleague.
You can forward calls automatically if you’re on another call or unreachable because of a power or internet outage or if the WiFi has stopped working. Nextiva also offers location forwarding. This feature lets you forward calls to all team members in a specific location to another phone number or extension.
The problem with Nextiva is its confusing pricing structure. It offers four pricing tiers. The amount you pay per user depends on your team’s size. Smaller teams end up paying far more.
Nextiva also forces you to upgrade for key features like auto-attendants and texting.
- Voice and video conferencing
- Toll-free numbers
- Virtual fax
- Call recording (requires upgrade)
- Voicemail transcription (requires upgrade)
Nextiva’s price per user depends on your team’s size. For 1-4 users:
- Essential: $23.95 per user per month
- Professional: $27.95 per user per month to access texting, CRM integrations, and conference calling
- Essential: $37.95 per user per month to access voicemail transcriptions, call recordings, and video conference recordings
Phone.com offers basic call forwarding and a few forwarding options. You can set a work schedule for forwarding calls after work hours. You can also forward calls based on caller ID.
Not impressive, but it gets the job done if you’re only looking for a few additional call forwarding options.
The real problem is that Phone.com offers many essential features as add-ons. For example, shared phone numbers cost $5 per month even if you subscribe to the top tier. Call recording costs $8 per month unless you’re on the top-tier plan.
Also, each user on Phone.com’s Basic plan comes with 500 pooled minutes, which all basic users on the account share for inbound and outbound calls. Forwarding uses up this time, so you’ll likely run out of minutes quickly and then pay extra fees.
- Call transfer
- Call waiting
- Voicemail to email
- Video Conference calls
- CRM integration
Teams can mix and match plans so specific users are on any of these different plans:
- Basic users: $11.99 per user per month
- Plus users: $15.99 per user per month to access unlimited calling, voicemail transcriptions, HIPAA-compliant video conferencing, and desk phone compatibility
- Pro users: $23.99 per user per month to access CRM integrations, voicemail transcriptions, call analytics, and free call recordings
Ooma has limited call forwarding functionality, but it still gets the job done well.
You can redirect incoming calls on your extension to another number. Once this is set up, you can toggle it on and off using the Ooma business phone app. With multi-ring, multiple devices will ring when a call comes in, but there are limitations on how many different device types each user can add.
Beyond call forwarding, Ooma’s base plan doesn’t offer significant value. You’ll need to upgrade to one of their higher-tier plans ($24.95 or more per user per month) to access call recording, a desktop app, and even text messaging. By comparison, with OpenPhone you get plenty of features for half the price.
- Unlimited calling to the US, Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico
- Virtual receptionist
- iOS and Android app
- Virtual fax
- Google and Office 365 integrations (requires upgrade)
- Dynamic caller ID (requires upgrade)
- Ooma Office Essentials: $19.95 per user per month
- Ooma Office Pro: $24.95 per user per month to access Ooma’s desktop app, CRM integrations, voicemail transcriptions, and video meetings
- Ooma Office Pro Plus: $29.95 per user per month to access phone menus, reporting, and automatic call distribution
Improve your clients’ calling experience with OpenPhone
Almost all VoIP services offer call forwarding. But not all call forwarding apps offer the features you need to deliver an exceptional client experience. OpenPhone equips you with the features and context your team needs. You can easily set up VoIP call forwarding, but that’s not all. You can also set up an IVR menu, transfer calls, and receive notifications for missed calls via email or Slack.
When you use OpenPhone, you don’t pay more for being a small team. Plus, you can easily scale your business phone system as your team grows. If all that sounds interesting, start a free trial of OpenPhone and see if it’s the right fit.
Arjun is a freelance writer specializing in marketing and technology. When he’s not in front of the screen, he likes to cook and play with his Labrador.