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Why Google Voice’s “keep my number” feature isn’t a good idea

Google Voice, the service that gives you a universal phone number, free SMS, and text transcripts of your voicemail, is now letting new users keep their current phone number when signing up. On the surface this sounds like a great new addition that will entice users who were scared off by the idea of giving up their current number. But in reality, this is actually a stripped down version of the service that not only removes functionality but actually restricts how users can use their phones. (This new option is not the same as porting your number, something Google expects to roll out in the future.)

When a new user receives and accepts their Google Voice (GV) invite, they’re presented with two options:

  1. to keep their current number, or
  2. the ‘classic’ option of getting a new GV number, then associating their phones with that

Choose wisely, because if you pick Option #1, there’s no going back. In other words, you can’t get a new GV number and all the features and options that go with it. Even worse, you’ll be stuck using Google’s voicemail system (and not your carrier’s) whether you like it or not.

That sounds harsh, but fortunately you can get all the features and keep your current number by choosing Option #2.

If you choose Option #2, you simply select a new GV number,  then add your cell phone to your account. You can then optionally activate the voicemail features on your cell phone—the same ones trumpeted under the banner of Option #1 on GV’s sign up page.

Basically, “keep my number” is a lite version of the service with fewer features. There is no good reason to choose it—if you think it’s a hassle to get a new phone number—and it’s really not—just don’t give it out to anyone. No one you call or text will know the difference.

Update: Nearly two months later, Google finally added the option to get your own Google Voice number even if you didn’t choose one initially.