Moving to Google Voice, for good.

I've been using Google Voice since it was Grand Central, and I've loved it since. It was nice having a number that I could hand off to anyone and not worry about spam or marketing because I could block that number or even have it blocked as spam without even knowing they called. The problem soon became that my trusty 10 year old number was stuck with my carrier and didn't offer the same experience.

I've had some hands on experience porting a number to Google Voice via Sprint for a friend and admittedly I was a bit jealous that T-Mobile didn't offer the same (seamless) experience. I patiently waited for a few months hoping that eventually my carrier of choice would catch on, to no avail. After a marketing company for a cruise line got hold of my 'real' number, I had to do something about it. It was time to port my number to Google Voice.

Getting Started

It should be noted that Google Voice will port a cell phone number from any carrier, the issue lies in how your carrier treats you after this has taken place. As the repeated bold message Google warns, your carrier will presume you have cancelled service and issue an ETF which may vary depending on your contract and carrier. You should contact your carrier first (which I did) in order to ensure you are able to seamlessly migrate your number.

The process involves the following steps.

  1. Handing your mobile number over to Google Voice.
  2. Contacting your carrier as soon as the number porting has taken place to re-activate your line.
  3. Assigning the new cell phone number issued by your carrier as the forwarding number on Google Voice and assuring all setting reflect the new numbers.

The Hand off

Assuming your current number is already set up for forwarding in your Google Voice account, there is an option listed next to that number under settings to make it your Google Voice number. Click this link to get you started.

The process will take "up to 24 hours" and believe me, It was 24 hours to the minute in my experience. There's also a warning that it could take up to 3 days to get messaging working properly, but I think I have a way to expedite that process.

Before the final click, I made sure my carrier would allow this without an early termination fee. After a few hand offs on customer support, I was ensured that I would be able to without any penalty. Simple call back once the number was ported (Google sends an email) and re-activate the line with a new number.

Contacting the Carrier

After the number port is complete, I called my carrier and asked for the new activations department. They were able to add a new number to my existing and currently cancelled line. Make sure after this to ensure your number is still the primary line, none of the services have changed and that any potential charges have been taken care of. It will be easier to do this now over the phone than checking your account later and calling back to make changes.

Your new line will now be activated on your phone, and will begin working anywhere from "a minute to a day". In my experience it was roughly 4 hours, and after a restart. What's important here is that your phone knows what your new number is. I had to restart my phone twice before the new number was registered and picked up in my settings.

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system settings > about phone > status


Receiving Calls Again

If you want to receive phone calls again, you're going to need to set your number up in Google Voice. You can do this via the app or the web interface. I suggest the app since you want to make sure all settings are working where you'll be receiving the calls. This can actually take a while, as it seems the app doesn't like to refresh those settings. Try killing the app and clearing it from memory. Then opening it up and checking the settings.

It's important to verify that the app recognizes your 'old' cell phone number as your new Google Voice number.

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"This phone's number" may not reflect your newly activated line, it will most likely still be your 'old' number, or just be blank.

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You want to add your phone as a new forwarding number. You should should be able to click the setting for "This phone's number" and "Add this phone". Depending on how you choose to add this (app/web) Google Voice will call the number to verify and give you a code.

If all of these settings are correct, you should soon start to be able to receive text messages. It took me about a day to change these settings properly and I received messages shortly after. Could be a coincidence, or could be a direct result.

Final Settings

It will be quite annoying if you are now doing all of your text messaging via the app, and your defaults are still the Messaging app on android. You need to drill into your application settings and find Messaging and clear the defaults. Once you do that and try to send an SMS from your contacts list, it will ask which app you want to use. Set the default to Google Voice. Now every shortcut on the phone will use Google Voice for SMS.

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system settings > apps > all > messaging

Luckily for ICS users, Google Voice updated their app today so the interface is a little more clean and streamlined with the OS. With a little bit of patience and accepting that there may be a dead spell where you will not receive SMS, you can port your number to Google Voice and enjoy all of the features it has to offer on your legacy cell phone number.