Changing phone numbers can be a gargantuan pain in the rump, right up there with switching addresses and being forced to create a new GamerTag because Microsoft found out you were boosting. Google Voice has offered call forwarding for quite a while, but it’s a half-baked solution that still requires a fair bit of migrating to get the full Google Voice experience.
Users can now port their existing phone number to Google Voice for a nominal ($20) fee. The process isn’t completely straight forward, though: you will need to terminate your existing cellular plan (and possibly be charged an early termination fee), setup a new plan with the same or different carrier, then add your newly-endowed number to Google Voice as a “forwarding phone”.
In the end you will be able to receive calls, just as you ever did, through your regular phone number — but they will be routed through Google Voice. Incoming calls will cause Voice to ring your new number, but neither the caller nor the receive will be able to tell the difference. Outgoing calls will continue to use your minutes (Google does not have their own cell service, though native Voice VoIP calls on Android may be possible in the not-too-distant future), and the receiver’s caller ID will display your existing number.
This essentially “unlocks” your phone number, and allows you to retain the same digits indefinitely, so if you are ever assigned a new number by your carrier, simply forward it to your Google Voice account to avoid the hassle of notifying every person you’ve ever met.
Number porting is currently in the testing phase, and may not be available to all users.
“We’re continually testing new features to enhance the user experience. For a limited amount of time, we’re making the Google Voice number porting process available to users. We don’t have any additional details to share at this time, but plan to offer this feature to all users in the near future.”
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