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Google Voice Lets You Use Your Own Phone Number

Posted by: Rob Hof on October 27, 2009

Google Voice, the phone management service the search giant launched the invite-only service earlier this year, has gotten some rave reviews, as well as its share of controversy. You can route calls to various of your phones—cell, work, home landline, whatever—to one number, as well as get voicemail and even view rough transcripts of voicemails.

But the big obstacle was the need to get a new number from Google Voice; you couldn’t use an existing number, such as your cell phone’s, to use the services. On Oct. 27, Google is announcing that you now will be able to use your existing cell phone number with some of Google Voice’s services: online voicemail, automated text transcripts, and custom voicemail greetings.

Technically, your cell number isn’t getting ported to Google Voice, but the upshot is that you won’t have to ask friends and colleagues to call a new number. For me, at least, that was one reason I haven’t yet dived into Google Voice. And you will still need to get a new Google Voice number to use all the services, such as call screening and recording.

Google’s blog post, along with a video, provides more details:

Google Voice with your existing number

Google Voice is all about enabling choice: which phone you pick up your calls on, where to review your voicemail messages, how to send and reply to text messages, etc. So when it comes to your phone number, it was logical for us to also offer a choice of which number to use with Google Voice.

Previously, when you created a Google Voice account, we asked you to select a new Google phone number. This allowed us to offer features like call forwarding, screening, and recording. But we know not everyone wants to start using a new phone number, so we've been working on another option for people who are willing to trade some features for the ability to keep their existing number.

We're excited to announce that you now can get Google Voice with a Google number OR with your existing mobile phone number. If you choose to use Google Voice with your existing number, you won't get some features (like call screening and recording), but you'll still get many others -- including Google voicemail.

More specifically, if you sign up for Google Voice with your existing number, you'll get:

* Online, searchable voicemail
* Free automated voicemail transcription
* Custom voicemail greetings for different callers
* Email and SMS notifications
* Low-priced international calling

If you decide to also get a new Google number, you'll get all of the above PLUS:

* One number that reaches you on all your phones
* SMS via email
* Call screening
* Listen In
* Call recording
* Conference calling
* Call blocking

If you already have a Google number, this new feature should also help with the transition to your new number, as you can now forward unanswered calls to your mobile phone to your Google Voice account. This way, people who still call your old number will reach the same voicemail as people who call your Google Voice number.

If you already use Google Voice, you can add Google voicemail to any mobile phone you've linked to your account. If you're not using Google Voice yet, you can request an invitation or ask someone with a Google Voice account to invite you. When you receive the invitation to sign-up, you decide whether you'd like to use Google Voice with your existing number or get a Google number.

Posted by Pierre Lebeau, Product Manager

Reader Comments


October 27, 2009 6:40 AM

I have been using google voice since the beginning. I was a grand central user who was automatically transferred to voice. I love the features of google voice. You can select a number anywhere in the country to use as your phone number. You can block anybody from calling. When they call they get a disconnection sound. Yeah that stops them. No more ex wife! Hehehehe. Plus you can have voice forward your calls to as many numbers as you like. The only thing I wish they had was international numbers.

Sierra Tango

October 27, 2009 3:37 PM

Out of curiosity - doesn't this method create some issues regarding costs for forwarding the calls?

I don't believe AT&T charges for calls when they are forwarded to its own voicemail service(s). When it is set to forward to another number - aren't you charged for airtime for the period of time the person is listening to and leaving you voicemail?

Also - if it's set this way and you are roaming outside of the United States - won't you be billed for those minutes as roaming minutes?

Sierra Tango

October 27, 2009 4:01 PM

This will be useful to many users.

My concern revolves around the idea of call forwarding. Wouldn't forwarding calls to a different number result in the loss of airtime? From the time an individual reaches Google Voice, through the end of their message - aren't we (the recipients) being billed for airtime?

Would this prove to be an issue when a user is roaming abroad? Would they be billed per-minute roaming charges for those calls that they decide to ignore (and are subsequently forwarded to Google Voice)?

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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