I’m a big fan of Google Voice, and the two of us go way back. I signed up for Grand Central, which was later acquired by Google, then turned in to what we now know as Google Voice.
Although Google did has accomplished most of what everyone wants in the current iteration (universal call forwarding and voicemail box, text messaging, cheap international calling, caller groups, call blocking, etc.). Two things are still missing: end-to-end VoIP and Local Number Portability (or “number porting”).
End-to-end VoIP via Google Voice hasn’t made an appearance on handhelds, but the desktop version of Gmail has this feature built-in, so it’s likely only a matter of time before it comes to your smartphone.
The draw-back to Google Voice has been that it required you to obtain a new number from Google. Number porting, on the other hand, lets you transfer your current phone number to another carrier (in this case Google). This, in the minds of many, is the proverbial Holy Grail. When you switch carriers you can port your old number to Google Voice (which essentially cancels your account with your previous carrier, complete with any early termination fees that may apply), get a new number from another carrier, then use Google Voice to point to that new number. No one needs to know you switched carriers, or that you have a new number. They can still reach you by calling your old number.
That’s just what Google did last night — for a little while.
For US$20, users of the service could request another number be ported to Google Voice. We don’t know how many people took advantage of this new offering, but Google apparently obtained all the people it needs to test out the new feature. Number porting requests are closed for the time being.
It’s probably only a matter of time before number porting becomes a standard offering of Google Voice, so make sure you stay tuned to pocketnow.com. We’ll let you know as soon as the signups are open again. If you see the signups open before we do, use the Tip Us link at the top of the page to let us know!