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Working around Google Voice number portability concerns

In July I wrote about Google Voice’s inadequacy as a personal cell voicemail system: YouMail is a better solution for me on a number of points.

The biggest nail in the coffin are N+1 live phone numbers to use Google Voice, when YouMail works with N, and only 1 number will get callers to the Google Voice system. There’s no silver bullet here other than porting a current number, which I hear Google’s working on, but I expect several bullets will be needed (who know how carriers & regulators will accidentally collude to mess up Google’s aim.)

But I did some more digging, and found that for YouMail-equivalence (except for MP3 email delivery) you can use your current numbers with Google Voice & at least the Google Voicemail system until something better comes along. Here’s an honest-to-goodness, you-can-do-this-right-now, workaround:

  • Don’t give anyone your Google Voice number! Yes, I know your new Google number is shiny. Just think, your number’s reclaimed from failed suburbia and still has that “partially finished subdivision” smell on it. It’ll help you cope.
  • Turn on “Do Not Disturb” on your Google Voice account.
  • Set your Google Voice number as your no-answer/busy transfer number for your other numbers.

Step 1 is easy, I won’t explain it any further.

Step 2: In the Google Voice web application, go to “Settings”, and under the “General” tab, enable “Do Not Disturb”:

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This causes calls to your Google Voice number to go immediately to Google Voice voicemail, avoiding any audio disturbances, temporal displacements, or painful feedback loops.

Step 3:  On Verizon Wireless, I type *71 immediately followed by my (10-digit) Google Voice number, then hit send.  Wait for confirmation tone, then hang up. I believe the AT&T equivalent is  *61, but don’t blame me if that toasts your iPhone; I didn’t get a chance to test it. T-Mobile, Sprint, Cricket, and other carrier folks… you’re on your own. Help me out if you like.

In closing, this lets you get around lack of number portability for some scenarios, specifically replacing existing voicemail systems with Google Voice. Hopefully this is helpful to you.

(I owe Engadget Mobile for reminding me no-answer/busy transfer is also how YouMail works, and so is a workaround here.)

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