Google Voice wireless-number porting now (really) available
A blog post from Google earlier Tuesday announced the change and noted that it costs $20 and should take about 24 hours. But it glossed over one issue: If you're still in a wireless contract, you'll probably have to eat an early termination fee. And after 90 days, you'll also lose whatever Google Voice number you'd set up before -- for now, this option is reserved for people who already have Voice accounts.
Why would you want to bother, when you can already move your number to any new wireless carrier pretty much at will? The major benefit of Google Voice is vastly smarter call-management options, all easily changed through a simple Web interface.
For example, you can have your number forwarded to other numbers of your choice or dumped directly to voicemail, depending on the date and time and who's calling. Google Voice's own, Web-accessible voicemail, with its automatic (and sometimes unintentionally hilarious) transcription, makes even the iPhone's visual-voicemail feature look like a last-decade product. Google's international calling rates usually run only a few pennies a minute, far less than the average carrier's. And you can move a Google Voice number from one phone to another with quick change of settings at its site.
For more details, see last week's explanation by Lifehacker's Kevin Purdy, a certified Google Voice convert. Or read the gleeful rant posted by TechCrunch's MG Siegler last week, when he jumped on this option in its earlier appearance to fire his wireless carrier: "I was able to cancel my AT&T service tonight -- without having to talk to a soul at AT&T."
(3:44 p.m. Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan got Google to port his mobile number to Google Voice six months ago, when it required a lot more work by the company, and just posted a writeup of his experiences since then that reveals some important differences in Google Voice's usability on an iPhone and an Android phone.)
Want downsides to using Google Voice? It puts yet another part of your life inside Google's orbit (although this service, unlike most of Google's freebies, is not subsidized by advertising; it's set up to cover its costs through international-calling charges). Google itself says the service should not be used for 911 calls. And should a Googlepocalypse occur that takes the service offline, you may feel particularly helpless without your phone number.
This is a big step for a service that Google only opened to the public last June.
But it's not complete: You still can't move over a landline number. And I can't help thinking that landline numbers -- which many of us still have, and which many of our friends and relatives have long since burned into their speed-dial lists -- would be an excellent candidate to move to a cloud-based service like Google Voice that could send those calls to the phone of our choice.
Have you moved a mobile number to Google Voice, are you thinking about it or have you decided against it? Share your experience or your concerns in the comments. And let me know if you'd flip a land number to Google Voice if you had the chance.
5:54 p.m. Added one detail about moving from an existing GV number to a ported-in mobile number.
| January 25, 2011; 2:01 PM ET
Categories: Mobile, Telecom
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