Google Voice is a unique online service that’s not quite VoIP, but a little bit more than a digital voicemail box. Recently, Google announced that it’s allowing users to port their existing numbers to Google Voice. In this way, when someone calls your phone number, it’ll go directly to Google Voice. If you’re a dedicated and active Google Voice user, this could be an attractive option. But if you’re considering using Google Voice for the first time, there are some things you should know before making the decision to port your number to Google Voice.
What Google Voice Isn’t
Google Voice is not a telephone company. They do not provide telephone service and they do not provide landline phones, cell phones or any other kind of hardware. Rather, Google Voice provides you with a voicemail inbox with Gmail like features (contacts, archiving and voice-to-text transcription) as well as call routing and forwarding.
The important thing to remember is that even if you port your number to Google Voice, you will still need cell phone service or landline telephone service from another phone service provider in order to make and receive calls. Though you can call phones using Gmail’s VoIP services, which are built into Gchat, you cannot receive calls via Google Voice—all calls that are placed to your Google Voice number are forwarded to the number of your choosing.
Costs and Caveats
Google charges you a one-time fee of $20 to port eligible numbers to Google Voice. Note that this will de-activate that number from the existing carrier. So, if you have an AT&T cell phone number, and you port it to Google Voice, your relationship with AT&T will end. You will incur any applicable early termination fees and you will not be able to receive calls to your AT&T phone at that number. You’ll have to arrange to keep phone service with a different number with your cell phone or landline carrier in order to maintain service. You’ll then have to forward your Google Voice number to your new cell phone or landline number.
Given the above, it may be in your best interest not to port your number to Google Voice quite yet. This doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the benefits of Google Voice, however. You can sign up for Google Voice and get a new number for free. Then, you can either share your new Google Voice number with friends, family and business associates, or you can set up forwarding on your existing landline or cell phone. The methods for forwarding your cell phone or landline vary depending on your carrier, but often, it can be done free of charge. For example, you can set up forwarding rules on your AT&T phone to forward missed calls to your Google Voice number so you can use Google Voice as a voicemail inbox without sacrificing your cell phone service.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive VoIP service, you can use Gchat Call Phones to place outgoing calls for free (for a limited time) or a service like Skype to receive local, long distance and international calls at a low rate.