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Google is expanding its testing of a long-awaited feature for Google Voice, the ability to port your current mobile number to the service, Engadget reports.
Number porting on Google Voice has been talked about for years now, but Google tells Search Engine Land that it’s only recently gotten over some back-end technical hurdles that will make the porting process easier.
Porting your number costs $20, and it will also end your current cellular service plan — which means you may have to pay early termination fees if you’re still under contract. And since that leaves your phone without a cellular number of its own, you’ll have to call your carrier and arrange for a new number on your device.
The expanded testing, which will only go on for a limited amount of time, is a sign that Google is close to bringing the feature to all Google Voice users. The feature was previously available to some users but couldn’t take advantage of everything Google Voice had to offer. For example, you couldn’t use Google Voice’s nifty voicemail transcription feature after porting your number.
For some, the cost and headache of porting their numbers will be worthwhile. It effectively means you’ll never have to port your number again when you switch service providers — assuming you want to continue using Google Voice. Given how deeply the service is implemented in Android phones, you could easily rely on your Google Voice number more than your cellphone’s actual number. Google also recently released a native iPhone app for Google Voice.
As a Google Voice user, I honestly don’t think number porting is as useful as the ability to create vanity phone numbers. When first signing up, Google Voice lets you create your own customized phone number which can use any available area code and gives you the option of spelling out words. But given that Google is positioning Voice to be a complete replacement for your current phone plan, the addition of number porting will certainly be welcomed by users.