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.
Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):