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My brother has Alzheimers, but still likes to send emails to his kids.

His email is a Gmail account.

Something changed and Apple Mail isn't letting him read mail. Mail is requiring some form of certification from Google. Every change I have tried to make, logging in as him on my computer results in a text message being sent to his cell phone.

Except that he doesn't have text messaging on his cell phone.

If I want to change his appleID, it wants to send a text message to his cell phone. If I want to change his phone number it wants to send a text message to his cell phone.

Even if I could change it, I know that he is going to increasingly run into 2-factor authentication situations. I don't want to have to phone him 3 times a week to read off his latest 6-digit code.

So, generalizing the problem:

Google periodically wants to use verification in some form to prove that you are you. At present I know of the following ways:

  • Google will text you a 6 digit code to your cell number. This requires a cell phone that can receive texts.
  • You can run the Authenticator app on your phone which will generate a verification code. This requires a smart phone.
  • You can download batches of 10 one time verification codes. But you have to verify using one of the above to do so.

Apple will use a voice call and a machine read 6 digit code, but Google doesn't have that as an option.

Is there a way to maintain a Google account without owning a cell phone. This could be:

  • A verification system I've not detailed above, such as a fob,
  • Google Authenticator running on his mac.
  • A way to turn off verification. Risky.
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  • Excellent question update. This is likely more challenging with an existing account. The community will bang their heads against it.
    – Blindspots
    Jul 12, 2023 at 18:11
  • While it is rare there are some mobile phones that are not smart phones, however, it is extremely unusual for mobile phones to have SMS disabled. Google does support 2FA confirmation via voice call and you should also add yourself as an alternate email. Of course, any modifications to the account first presume "access" the current problem.
    – Blindspots
    Jul 12, 2023 at 18:25
  • Perhaps it's worth setting up one or more additional Google accounts for testing future approaches while you also work through the current account access issue. You might also take a look at (test drive) options for account supervision for children (people) over 13
    – Blindspots
    Jul 12, 2023 at 18:29

2 Answers 2

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Google does support sending codes via phone call, but you probably have it set to text message. When I go to 2-Step Verification settings and click "Voice or text message (Default)", I can edit my 2FA with a popup like this:

update this phone number

At the bottom it says "How do you want to receive sign-in codes from Google?" and I have "text message" selected, but the other option is "voice call".

You also have the option of using an authenticator extension such as Authenticator by authenticator.cc. This is often the way schools do 2FA since kids may not have a cell phone.


If you need to recover the account, you might need to contact support unless you still have access to the inbox or one of the recovery options. If you don't have recovery options, get some set up!

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Yes, there is a way to manage a Google account without a cell phone. You might use printed code, SMS messages, or security keys. The best place to review which are the current options is https://support.google.com/accounts. Below there are some articles that I just found:

I just found that Google has "Guidebooks"

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    How do you receive an SMS message without a cell phone. Remember that Google wants to use the same number every time. Usually you have to verify the number change on the old number before the new number will be acceptted. Jul 12, 2023 at 16:17
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    I suspect that I would need a verification code from his phone to add a keyfob too. Jul 12, 2023 at 16:20
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    It sounds to something reasonable, but you might try to do the account recovery. IIRC there is an option for those not having the phone with them, but you will be asked for information that it's supposed that only the account owner knows like date of the last email message sent, some labels, etc. (I have not read yet the last question edit, I might be able to do it tonight) Jul 12, 2023 at 16:25

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