Today, Sprint and Google announced that the carrier's customers with CDMA phones will soon be able to use their existing numbers with Google Voice. This is good news for anyone who wants to take advantage of all the great features of Google Voice without the hassle of changing numbers or going through the porting process. The press release stated that this will happen "soon" but gave no firm date. Customers can sign up to be notified here.
Sprint users new to Google Voice might not be aware of all the benefits that come with this deal. Here are the first five things you should do once the service is available:
1. Set up call forwarding
Now Sprint customers can set up Google Voice to ring not just the mobile phone but any of your phones (landline or mobile) when calls come in. Additionally, you can set it up so that certain numbers ring only at specified times. For instance, you can make it so Google Voice only rings your office phone on weekdays, or create a custom no ring range. Google Voice users can add up to 6 phones.
2. Set up call screening
Remember the days of old-school answering machines where you could hear whoever was calling leave a message and then decide whether to pick up? Google Voice offers a similar, but more high-tech feature. By default, whenever you get a call via Google Voice the system will tell the caller that it's contacting you. When you pick up the phone, GV will say who's calling and give a menu of choices. You can answer, send to voicemail, or send to voicemail and listen in. If you listen in, you have the option of picking up at any time. This is seriously handy when you don't recognize a number on caller ID or if family calls and you want to determine if they're going to hassle you for that loan or just inform you that the barbecue is at 10 on Saturday.
3. Forward voicemails and text messages
In addition to seeing voicemails and text messages on your mobile phone in the Google Voice app, you can also ask the service to send them to you via e-mail or forward the texts to the SMS inbox for any mobile phone connected to the service. E-mailed voicemail notifications include the audio as a downloadable element (also available via the Google Voice page) and an automatic transcription. This is sometimes hilarious in its badness, but I find that I often don't even need to listen to the voicemail because the transcription gives me the gist.
4. Create groups to better manage phone calls
Just as with GMail, Google Voice also has a list of contacts. In fact, it's the same list. Within your contacts you can create Groups (Family, Co-Workers, Friends are there by default) which then allows you to get really detailed with how they can contact you. You can restrict the phones that ring when members of a group call, turn call screening on or off, and record a special voicemail greeting.
5. Make cheap international calls
Sprint customers can now take advantage of Google Voice's low international calling rates, which includes 2 cents/minute to The UK, China, France and Mexico, among other countries. Check the full rate sheet here.
There are many more cool features to Google Voice for all mobile phone users. I hope other carriers follow Sprint's lead in allowing customers to use their own number without having to port.