Since Google Voice began accepting number transfers to their service earlier this week, the tech community has erupted in excitement. Freeing your primary phone number from dependence on a traditional telecom service provider is undoubtedly satisfying. If you are not familiar with Google Voice, definitely watch this video about the free service. In short, it transcribes voicemails, rings multiple devices including a computer at once, conditionally forwards/filters calls, and offers free text messaging. For those considering porting their number over, here are somethings you should know:
The True Cost
Grabbing a new Google Voice number is entirely free for new users, but it means having to share new digits with friends, family, and colleagues. To make things easier, Google now allows porting your existing number to their service for $20. Sounds affordable, right? Unfortunately, porting entails cancelling your existing contract which is not cheap. For instance, Verizon Wireless has early termination fees that ranges from $175 for feature phone owners to $350 for smart phones owners.
The costs do not end there. Since your existing phone will no longer work after porting a number, you will need to get a new device and plan. If you were previously eligible for an upgrade, those bonus discounts are no longer available. Keep in mind most carriers charge activation fees in addition to hardware and taxes. Unless you are in a rush, the best time to switch over to Google Voice is when your contract expires.
Plan For The Switch
Porting is not instant. Your phone number will be unavailable for nearly 24 hours during the transfer. Be sure to pick a day when you are not expecting too many calls. A long weekend or a holiday might be a good choice. You should buy a new phone and sign a new contract before porting your current cell phone number. This will make it easy to quickly begin forwarding calls to your new phone once your ported Google Voice number becomes active. Plus, you will also have a device during the down time.
Data Network Needed
If you plan to use the Google Voice Android App, you will need a data connection to place a call with your universal number. Recent updates to the app have enabled caching information to make it work in more situations, but it is not perfect. You can also choose to call your Google Voice number directly then input a number to dial, but it is just tedious. Google Voice includes unlimited SMS, but this needs constant data connection to send or receive a message as well.
Google Voice offers no support for picture or video messages. This means users will have to still share their phone’s number to receive messages. Having to use two numbers in instances such as this might be even more confusing for others. I have also seen the Gmail Voice integration audio quality drop to unbearable levels at times. There are often a few seconds of additional delay when Google attempts to route calls to other phones.
For the most part, the best integration comes with Android devices since users can choose to permanently route all calls through the service in the settings. Even feature phones can use Google Voice, but it requires dialing your own number before dialing the destination number, making it a hassle. Apple iPhone owners now have a Google Voice app available in the App Store, however users must head to that app to initiate a call rather than using the regular dial pad app.
The Bottom Line
I use Google Voice each day and I can not live without it. The ability to see transcribed voicemails and share them with others is incredibly easy. I can record calls and listen to them later as well. When someone calls me, I love that my computer and smart phone ring at once. I can even initiate a call from a web browser and answer it on my mobile phone. It is a great service, but those who are not too tech savvy should do their homework before switching to the service.