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Summary:

Google Voice has been a great tool for people to manage their communications. But it did not allow porting of existing mobile numbers, which limited its adoption. Now, Google has quietly enabled number porting for Google Voice though it comes with some hurdles.

google-voice-iphone

Google Voice has been a great tool for people to manage their communications, but for some people, the fact that they couldn’t use their existing mobile number was a turn-off that kept them from taking the plunge. Now it looks like Google has quietly enabled number porting for Google Voice — although it does come with some hurdles. But regardless, it could be a big development for Google Voice, helping it become in effect a phone company for many users.

The first hurdle is that it costs $20 to port a number, and it won’t work for landline phones or corporate mobile numbers. Users also need to terminate their existing plans with their cellular carriers, which could result in early-termination fees. Then they need to set up a new mobile account with their mobile carrier in order to obtain a new phone number, which can be added to the Google Voice account as a forward number — and during the transition, a user may not be able to receive text messages for up to three days. Also, a user’s existing Google Voice number will go away after 90 days.

It sounds like a bit of work, and might not be an option for all consumers, particularly those who are on a new contract. But it might be worth it for people who like the management tools of Google Voice but don’t want to ask their friends to learn a new phone number. Google Voice allows a user to have their calls routed through one number and includes a slew of features like voice mail transcription, customized voice mail greetings and visual voice mail.

According to Techcrunch, the update is being rolled out to users, so not everyone will be able to take advantage of it immediately. You’ll need to check your Google Voice settings to see if the option is available. “We’re continually testing new features to enhance the user experience. For a limited amount of time, we’re making the Google Voice number porting process available to users. We don’t have any additional details to share at this time, but plan to offer this feature to all users in the near future,” Google said in a statement.

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  1. Well the drawbacks seems to be more than the advantages. I think Google needs to work on the hurdles to make it a hit in the market.

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  2. You can port your number to Google Voice by going to: Google Voice –> Settings –> Voice Settings and select the port link.

    One of the biggest drawbacks of Google Voice until now was that you had to use the number assigned to you by Google.

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  3. what is actually needed is a way to flip/flop numbers, so that a cell number can become a GV number and a GV a cell number without cancelling the cell phone account.

    or at least there should be an option that gets a new cell number issued instead of closing the account. i suppose this would require the working together of google and the various carriers.

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    1. I totally agree with you Tom, but I think that would be a challenge under the current system. I passed an under contract iPhone 3GS down to my daughter last year, but wanted to port the number of it out to another carrier and simply get a new number for my phone. I didn’t want to break nor renew my contract. You’d think it would be easy to just assign another number to the phone but because the contracts are tied to specific phone numbers, it took hours bewteen calls to customer service and trips to the local carrier store. I was repeatedly told they couldn’t do it because of the number change, which kills the contract. Eventually, I got it worked out, but the current system isn’t designed for the number swap. :(

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  4. Ryan, fair points but I’d characterize those as short-term hurdles. After contract (to avoid ETF), why not migrate to Google Voice? Huge advantages in getting control of your number as well as the Google Voice features. Any downside?

    More generically this is good step towards true unified communications (not the vendor definition) which includes separating pipes, providers and services. Rant here for folks interested:
    http://nextblitz.com/blog/google-voice-number-porting/

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    1. Good points. Yeah, after the ETF is dealt with, i think this will be attractive for a lot of people. Some like to keep their GV number separate but many i think would like to migrate to GV with their existing mobile number.

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  5. I use GV for my (home) office phone. I don’t want to use my cell phone number for that — keeping it separate allows me to use the timer feature of GV so business calls go to voice mail after office hours, and no one is calling my home or cell phone about work stuff.

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  6. “Also, a user’s existing Google Voice number will go away after 90 days.”

    Well, that’s a no go for me then. I’ve been using my GV number for over a year now and don’t want to lose that either. Would be great if both the number you port and your existing GV number would stay active under the same account.

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  7. Can you obtain more than one GV number? I would like to have local number AND an “office” number when I am on-site working. I would pay a small fee for this.

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    1. No can do Bob. Per Google, you can currently get one GV number per Google account. http://www.google.com/support/voice/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=115136

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  8. I use GV and my biggest problem with it is the latency on calls on my mobile phone (AT&T). However, GV calls over a landline is fine so I couldn’t seriously consider porting until latency is addressed.

    Any other GV users experience the same issue?

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