Google Voice For Noobs

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http://forum.xda-developers.com – I've always have had google voice but ive never actually used it. What is it? is like like a google phone number with free text and free minutes? I've never used it because i thought you have to pay for minutes and text. Oh and this may or may not help but i have everything unlimited 1500minute plan on sprint Also, what are the advantages to having this over just regular Sprint voice mail/text/calling? (HowTos)