Over at TechCrunch, Michael Arrington has reported the intriguing tidbit that Google is working on letting users of its Google Voice phone service use phone-number portability to transfer their number from whatever carrier they’re using to Google Voice. In both its original form as GrandCentral and still-in-private-beta relaunch as Google Voice, the service has made you sign up for a new phone number. That’s not a dealbreaker–if you’ve ever called Technologizer’s business number, you’ve dialed a Google Voice number–but a lot of folks would be much more likely to try Google Voice if they didn’t have to inform the world that their phone number had changed. And the service’s help system appears to confirm TechCrunch’s report.
Using existing phone numbers with Google Voice-like services isn’t a new idea–for instance, SkyDeck and Grasshopper, both of which overlap with Google Voice’s features, already let you do it. But Google Voice is the most comprehensive service of this sort: It can ring multiple phones at once, it turns your voicemail into text and lets you get it over the Web or via SMS, it lets you screen and record calls, and a whole lot more. And everything’s free except for international calls (which are cheap). All in all, it’s pretty spectacular.
Arrington also says that Google is working on a way to make Google Voice users’ calls show up on recipients’ Caller ID as the Google Voice number, rather than the primary phone number associated with the phone that made the call. That would solve another fairly significant problem with Google Voice, which is that it’s tough to hide the fact that Google Voice numbers are virtual, and that you’ve still got a real (if in many ways less useful) phone number that you can be reached at.
Of course, the one Google Voice feature that most people are most curious about is a simple one: general availability. Except for a brief period a long time ago when GrandCentral let anybody sign up, the service has been stuck in one of longest private betas I can remember. If the day comes–soon, I hope–when Google lets anyone sign up for Google Voice for free, I’m betting that it’ll prompt one of the most intense mad rushes of new users into a Google service to date.