For years I stuck with the mobile number I was issued way back in 1996 when I purchased my first cell phone. I never thought of switching carriers, and I was happy to know that everyone that needed to contact me could do so easily. About a year ago after my BlackBerry addiction started to overtake me full-time, I realized that having a CDMA carrier number that wasn't easily portable wasn't the best thing. I thought about it for a while, and as the idea of carting around multiple devices all day didn't appeal to me, I decided to finally give up my roots and give Google Voice a shot. I had registered with the service ages ago, but left the number untouched for months. Now was the time to make it mine and spread my new number to the few people that actually call me.
First off you have to have a Google Voice invite, but they seem to be readily available through friends these days, so finding on shouldn't be too hard. Once you get the "I've changed my number" emails out of the way, Google Voice can be your best friend and help you get more from your device (and life if you want to go that far). Over the weekend I stumbled across this article from Gizmodo that made me realize that Google Voice really is as good as it gets. Using a Google Voice number lets you swap between any number of devices, the only requirement being to have the Google Voice app installed on the device. Incoming calls will get forward to one or more devices, and using the app, outgoing calls will show your Google Voice number (as opposed to the acutal number of the device). Unlimited free SMS, the best voicemal around, text transcription for voicemail and an awesomely controllable web-based control panel to control it all. You can screen calls, block numbers and more.
Of course with all of this glory there are still a few downsides. Thus far, there is no MMS with Google Voice. This doesn't mean that any MMS sent to you will come in an email, it means that the sender will reveive an error telling them your number is invalid. Big problem. The SMS is far from perfect as well - mesages will show in the application (after a refresh) but when coming into the device, will appear to be from a random number not associated with any contacts. The plus side is that they are all neatly stored on your account, allowing you to archive, delete and even send an SMS from the web. The Google Voice app also has to dial an access number before completing your call, which at times doesn't always want to connect and can also be a big problem. The dialer on your device is still the default, so if you fail to dial a contact through the app the device number and not your Google Voice number will appear. You have to either dial directly from the application, or when in your contacts list choose the "Call with Google Voice" option. My wishlist for the holiday season is that Google gets with it and fixes up the app (the best they can given the OS limitations on the device) to make these issues go away. I can deal with having to dial contacts using a menu option, but I really need MMS (for my slow-adopting friends) and a better SMS implementation would be nice too. A side note (that should have been included from the start) is that the BlackBerry AutoText doesn't work withing the app for SMS, making you realize how much you rely on AutoText on your device.
Overall I feel that if you choose to adopt a Google Voice number to stick with you from here on out you will never look back. It can change the way you use your phone in ways you never new possible. It streamlines your communication, and makes things overall easier and more organized. In the coming weeks we'll take a look at the app and run through a complete setup and usage for BlackBerry devices, but for now I'll say if you haven't checked out Google Voice in the past you should definitely give it a go. Drop a comment and let us know your thoughts. Are you a happy Google Voice user? What would you like to see fixed up to make it even better? Have you not adopted the Google way for reasons of your own? Let us know!