Google Voice Frees Your Voicemail, and Your Number

Until yesterday, signing up for a Google Voice account required you to pick a new phone number -- not a pleasant option for those who have kept the same digits for years. Now Google has enabled users to keep their existing phone numbers and get (most of) the features Google Voice offers, including Google's excellent voicemail service.

When you sign up for Google Voice -- which is still not widely available to the public (you need to get an invite or request one) -- you can either choose Google one-stop phone number or keep your own for a more pared-down experience. Keeping your old digits gives you:

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

Going for the full-throttle Google experience gives you 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 Voice number, you can add the voicemail option to any mobile phone associated with the account. Some of the awesome benefits are explained in Google's YouTube explanation:

Since voicemails are transcribed and placed online, even made publicly available for sharing purposes, there has been some danger of said voicemails appearing in search results. Happily, Google circumvented this problem earlier this month.

These new features are both freeing and limiting: you can keep your number but sacrifice some of the goodies that make Google Voice a powerful contender in the telephony business. Full number portability is likely coming in the future, after, of course, Google deals with AT&T, Apple, and the FCC. But some have high hopes that eventually the opposition will grow to accept and embrace Google Voice.

Follow Brennon on Twitter: @neonmadman

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