All projects: DIY-IT Project Guide
This project: The Ultimate Google Voice How-to Guide (2014 Edition)
Step 1: Check your eligibility
Although all phones are technically available for porting, you should check your eligibility for porting before you get started. Since I was going to AT&T (at least in the early stages of this process), I used this form on the AT&T site to check if there would be a problem.
Note that even if your mobile phone isn't on AT&T, it might be easier to use AT&T for this transfer process, simply because of the availability of cheap GoPhones. Of course, there are similar choices with other carriers, but this worked for me.
My land line was eligible. I'm not sure exactly what makes a phone "eligible" or what you'd do if it isn't, but if this form says you're golden, you probably are.
If you follow this step-by-step guide, you'll also be transferring your number to AT&T (again, as a short part of the process), so you should check your eligibility.
Step 2: Get an AT&T GoPhone
Both Denise and I had iPhones at the time and back then, at least, we were both kind of partial to the numbers that belonged to those phones. If we'd ported our land line numbers to our iPhones, we would have lost the numbers originally assigned to the iPhone.
As it turns out, in the intervening few years, Google Voice has worked so well for us that we've completely forgotten those original phone numbers. But back then, we wanted to save them. If you want to save your current mobile number, follow these instructions.
Your next step is to get a new cell phone. The challenge is you're not going to want to spend much, or sign up for a plan (or the associated two-year commitment).
The trick is to use an AT&T GoPhone, which is a prepaid cell phone you can buy from AT&T. We bought ours at Wal-Mart for $10 each back in 2011. Today, the cheapest GoPhone available from either AT&T or Wal-Mart is about $15.
Step 3: Get a new Google account for your GV service
I don't use Gmail as my primary mail account. Instead, I use Microsoft Outlook and Exchange on Office 365. Even so, I have a Gmail account and it contains personal information I'd prefer didn't fall into the hands of strangers.
Later in this series, I'll show you how you can connect Google Voice to a very cheap, home VoIP system. Doing this requires giving your Google Voice account and password to the VoIP provider, so they can capture incoming calls and pass them along to you.
Because the provider needs your login and password (they essentially become a Google Chat client), I didn't want to give them my main Google account credentials.
Therefore, I strongly recommend you do what I did. Set up a new Google Voice account with a completely new login and password. You'll need this in a few steps.
Step 4: Buy the minimum number of minutes
We found that the AT&T porting representatives wouldn't perform a port until we had some minutes attached to our GoPhone. You can go into your GoPhone account online and purchase $15 worth of minutes.
Be aware that these minutes expire pretty quickly (like in a month). In fact, if you port your number to the GoPhone and then let the minutes expire without re-charging them, you might lose your hard-won number. So, I'd recommend that once you start this process, finish it as soon as you can.
Nex upt: Steps 5 to 10...