Plenty of folks have been intrigued by Google Voice but haven’t been too keen on getting a new phone number—even if that phone number can act as a front end for everything else they want to do. Google seems to have understood that, and has now introduced a “lighter” version of Google Voice that lets users tap into Google Voice’s voicemail system from their existing phone numbers using the magic of call forwarding.
“Google Voice is about giving you more control over your communications,” Google wrote in its company blog. “We hope this new option makes it easier for you to manage your messages and personalize your voicemail experience.”
If users sign up for Google Voice using an existing phone number, they can use Google Voice’s voicemail feature instead of a carrier’s voicemail option. Google Voice voicemail offers unlimited message storage, and also provided text transcriptions of voice messages: users can tap into voicemail messages from a Web browser, read them in an email inbox or via text message, and manage their voicemail in many of the same ways people are accustomed to managing email.
The feature bypasses a carrier’s voicemail option by using call-forwarding; although mobile carriers might not be thrilled about Google doing an end-run around their voicemail systems, those forwarded calls are still consuming mobile minutes and racking up carrier charges. However, carriers may find Google Voice users are not using mobile minutes as frequently to check messages, opting instead for text versions of managing voicemail via the Web.
Google Voice is currently in an invitation-only beta, although anyone can request an invitation.