My phone number is somewhat sacred, which is why I was never willing to use Google Voice (GV) before they instituted number porting. I didn’t like the idea of having to tell people a new number. Granted, GV can be good for other things like having a second phone line for non-family/friends to call. Or, some people might not mind telling their friends or family about a new number. Not me. My number is my number. So before explaining why I ported my number from AT&T to GV, thus incurring an early termination fee and canceling my contract with AT&T, let me give you some insight into why GV is interesting.
Rules: With GV, you can set a wide variety of rules, like you can in your email inbox. For example, you can send calls directly to voicemail after a certain time. Or, during lunch, your GV number will ring both your office line and your cell phone. Or, your in-laws will hear a different voicemail greeting than your friends, and so on.
Use any phone you want, on any carrier!: This was the biggest advantage for me, since I tend to change phones a lot as I review them. With GV, thanks to native apps for Android and iPhone (for other platforms like WebOS you can use a third party app), I can text/call from any phone number, on any carrier, and still have the other party see my regular phone number. This is huge! In other words, with some small configuration, I can take any Android, WebOS, or iPhone, and just use it as if it had my regular phone number already programmed.
Free SMS and free voicemail transcriptions: These days, SMS are cheap, and it’s even not possible to NOT have them included in you plan. But since your SMS are all done through the GV app, they are routed over the web, and thus are free. Not only that, but voicemail transcriptions are free. I hate listening to people yap on voicemail, so for years I’ve been paying around $15 per month for transcriptions through Line1. While GV transcriptions aren’t as good as Line1, you also get the audio with any voicemail transcription.
Economics: I’m always looking for ways to save some money. Even though I’m likely to be charged with an early termination fee of around $200 (I’m keeping a close eye on my credit card statement!), my move to GV will put me in the black in the long term. Here is why. I’ve been using AT&T as my primary carrier for many years. My plan was as follows:
$50: 1500 anytime minutes, no nights and weekends (old plan)
$30: unlimited data (grandfathered)
$15: 1500 SMS
$15: taxes and fees
$15: voicemail transcriptions from Line1
That’s $125 per month! In looking at my usage, I was using most of the voice minutes, half of the SMS, and only around 600MB of data per month. The most data I’ve ever used was 900MB! Shocking, I know, since I consider myself a heavy smartphone user.
Following me so far?
In wanting to use the T-Mobile Nexus S as my “fall back” phone (replacing the iPhone or Nexus One on AT&T), I needed to go to T-Mobile. They had a perfect prepaid plan. Since I already own the Nexus S, I didn’t need to sign a contact. Here’s what my new bill looks like:
$55: Unlimited voice, SMS, MMS
$25: 2GB of data
$5: taxes and fees
That’s $75 per month total! I’m saving a sexy $50 per month now using T-Mobile and GV, which should allow me to break even on my AT&T early termination fee in just four months.
Web management: Using the GV website, I can see all of my call activity, all of my voicemails, all SMS, and set up my rules. Heck, I can even make phone calls with GChat (using my regular GV number) for free, or send SMS over the web. It’s fantastic having my whole phone history be online…searchable, archiveable, just like email.
The caveats: Now, GV isn’t perfect. If you’re going to take the plunge and use it full time like I am, know a few things. First, you can’t MMS with your GV number. You can still MMS from your phone, but the recipient might see a weird phone number show up. Second, and I haven’t experienced this yet, GV voice quality can be dicey at times, because at some point in the chain, it is routed over VOiP, which isn’t 100% reliable. Again, I’ve never experienced such an issue.
Another big caveat is that GV only works in the US at this time.
Don’t I still need a contract with a carrier?
Our hunch is that one day Google will be a carrier, providing competitive plans for its GV customers. But for today, you don’t need a contract, you just need a working phone. That could be a contract with a carrier (thus providing a subsidized phone), or you can do what I did and go prepaid so you can change carriers at any time. If you do prepaid, you’ll have to already have a phone, meaning you might have to shell out big bucks to get an unlocked device like the Nexus S or Venue. Either way, you’ll get a new phone number, but that number only matters when you input it into GV and tell the system to “ring this number” when someone calls your ported GV line. Easy.
Ask questions in the comments, and we’ll add more FAQ!