Google Voice on Sprint: Freeing phone numbers for more flexibility

Summary:Before I offer my two cents about this week's Google Voice news, I should probably note that I am a huge fan of the service and have been using it since it was Grand Central - before the acquisition by Google. It's also worth noting that I use an Android phone on the Verizon network.

Before I offer my two cents about this week's Google Voice news, I should probably note that I am a huge fan of the service and have been using it since it was Grand Central - before the acquisition by Google. It's also worth noting that I use an Android phone on the Verizon network.

With that said, Google's announced partnership with Sprint this week is a pretty significant announcement, even if it's kind of tough to understand. In a nutshell, Sprint customers can now turn their cell phone numbers into Google Voice numbers, which means that calls to those numbers won't just ring on the cell phone itself. They can also be programmed to ring on other lines, including home landlines, office numbers and even computers, via Gmail.

That's a big deal because it represents a carrier's phone number to essentially be ported to Google Voice, just as it would allow a number to be ported to another carrier. But unlike another carrier, porting that number to GV frees it to ring on other devices.

Meanwhile, the service allows Google Voice customers to replace their Sprint numbers with their Google Voice numbers when placing calls or sending text messages - without the app. Android phone owners running the Google Voice app have already been able to do that - but it's been kind of clunky until now.

I remain bullish about Google Voice and am thrilled that Google continues to enhance the service, which it acquired in 2007. The beauty of these enhancements is that they appear to meet the real-life needs of GV users. What I'd like to see next, though, is for Google to allow mobile phone users to customize which number - device number or Google Voice number - is used for specific calls. Here's what I mean by that:

I have a number that was assigned to my smartphone by Verizon - and that's the number I've given to friends, family and other personal contacts. When those folks call me - regardless of day or time - that device rings. I also use a Google Voice number as my "work" number, which rings at my desk and on my mobile - but only during the assigned hours. During evening or weekend hours, calls to that line go directly to voicemail.

Here's the trick, when I use my smartphone to call my wife, for example, I have to manually decide how to place that call - using the Verizon number or the GV number. The same goes when I make a business-related call from that device. What I'd like to be able to do is have every call to my wife's numbers automatically be dialed from the Verizon number and every call placed to my business contacts to automatically be dialed from my GV number.

Get it?

It can be confusing - but users of the service will understand. As for the Sprint news, it's unclear whether a GV partnership is enough of a perk for Sprint to help the carrier fight off the forces of mega-competitors, notably Verizon and now AT&T, which is acquiring T-Mobile. Still, it's a good move for both sides - and Google has once again turned to a YouTube video to help explain.

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Topics: Mobility, Google, Hardware, Telcos

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