Google Voice number porting comes too late

Recently, Google announced the ability of its Google Voice users to port their existing mobile number to GV. This sounds great in theory, as it is what many Google Voice users have been clammering for for a year and a half. When Google Voice was new (invite-only but fully launched and then available to everyone eventually), porting your existing cell number to GV made sense—why would you want to tell everybody a new number they'd have to call in order to reach you?

There was no porting ability for a long time, though. So what have we Google Voice users done in the meantime? Well, we basically did what cell phone users had done for years before number porting even existed. We just told people our new Google Voice number. If people called on my old number, they'd still reach me. But every time I called them, my caller ID would show my Google Voice number. And if someone asked for my phone number, I'd give her my Google Voice number. Eventually, my number is my Google Voice number. At this point, everyone I know has my Google Voice number. Porting my old number would be pointless. And I suspect a lot of Google Voice users are in the same position.

There are also other added complications, even if you haven't been a long-time Google Voice user. In Google Voice Porting Equals LSD Trip Gone Awry, David Kravets talks about the difficulties of trying to port a number from Sprint to Google Voice:

Eventually, I pulled it off. I kept my same Sprint account under the same service agreement signed in July. The only change to my service agreement was that I was given a replacement phone number, which is exactly what I wanted. Unfortunately, the price I paid to accomplish this was higher than the $200 I saved in early termination fees. But since my goal was to avoid giving a new phone number to all of my contacts, that didn’t seem like throwing money down the drain the way getting socked with a termination fee does.
See, Google Voice to a cell phone user is useless without a new cell phone number. It's not like porting a cell phone number from one carrier to another. Once you have a new cell phone, what do you need your old cell phone for? You have a new phone. But Google Voice is not a new cell phone. You still need your old cell phone when you port your number, which means you need a new number for Google Voice to dial to. In other words, let's say my existing cell phone number is 202-333-3333, and I want to port that to Google Voice. As soon as I do that, 202-333-3333 won't ring my cell phone any more. My cell phone will have no number. So I have to get a new number from my cell phone company, which would be, for the sake of this example, 202-555-5555. So now people can call 202-333-3333 to reach 202-555-5555, whereas before they would call 202-333-3333 to reach 202-333-3333. Not sure I get the advantage here, especially given the hassle of trying to get your carrier to understand you're porting a number but still want to stay with the provider.

Oh, and Google will charge you $20 to port the number as well.

I love Google Voice. I'm a big fan, and I try all the time to convince people to use it. This number porting business, though—at least the way and time it is now implemented—is totally useless. My advice is to just get a new number that directs to your cell phone. When people call you on your old number, just call them back on your new one. When you meet new people who ask for your number, give them your new number. Both the old number and new number will reach you. Eventually, though, people will know only your new Google Voice number.

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7 Comments

  1. You might have this issue because US is the only country where this service is available.
    Once it is tested there, it might be rolled out worldwide. So, (excuse me) you’re now a guinea pig for Google to run their tests on. Not an offence. Just be patient. Everything will settle down. 8-)
    Cheers!

  2. My wife and I are both on T-mobile as well as her whole family. We definitely take advantage of the free T-mobile to T-mobile minutes. What happens if I use GV? If my wife on T-mobile calls my GV number, won’t we lose out on the T-mobile to T-mobile minutes. She would call an out of carrier number (GV) and then I receive a out of carrier number from GV.

  3. “Totally useless?” Hardly. Try expanding your mind beyond your own personal situation.
    I can now get rid of my landline. Although I get mostly sales calls on that line I need to keep that number but don’t want to pay the monthly bill. So I will port my landline number to Page Plus Cellular for no charge. I will then port that number from Page Plus to Google Voice for $20. So I will be able to keep my landline number but won’t have to pay the monthly bill and I’ll get all the benefits of Google Voice. If someone leaves me a voicemail on that number I will get notified on my cell phone via text message or email. If I need to call from that number I will just use the Gmail phone dialing feature.
    This is a great benefit to me and is anything but “totally useless.”

  4. Joseph,

    This is exactly what I am doing. First I had to swap my Primary phone number with my distinctive ring number. Then port my distinctive number to ATT for free. Then port to google voice and cancel ATT. A lot of work but in the end I will finally have ONE number. I am however keeping a dial tone only for 911 and also so I can keep all the discounts of my bundled services.

    Google…. Please make direct porting from landline available soon… So many will switch then.

  5. So, if if in the future, I want to port my number away from Google, what is the procedure? As I recall, when I’ve ported numbers between cell carriers, they usually dial an 800 number and speak with someone while I’m standing at the service counter. I can imagine the puzzled look they’ll have when they realize they must contact Google.

  6. Thanks for the info Robert.

    We set up my husbands business with the distinctive ring feature several years ago. Qwest advises that is not portable.

    I did not realize you could potentially switch them around. That gives us some hope for getting off our landlines once google can manage that one.

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