Uh oh! Project Fi guts many of Google Voice’s features during setup process

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Invites to Google’s Project Fi cellular service are beginning to roll out to select users, but not everything seems to be rainbows and sunshine. Some Google Voice users are encountering an ominous message during the Fi sign-up process that indicates the two services won’t play nicely together.

If you’re a Google Voice user and you enroll in Project Fi, here’s what apparently happens: Fi will automatically pull in your existing Voice number and give you the stark choice of either (1) porting it to Fi, or (2) abandoning it permanently. But counterintuitively, porting appears to be the more problematic option of the two. Doing so will irrevocably disable calling and messaging through the Google Voice app and shut down your voicemail inbox (old messages are archived), plus lock out legacy platforms like Google Talk and Obihai devices.

That sounds draconian, and it is, but it’s worth pointing out that Voice users who migrate to Project Fi won’t lose all the functionality they’ve come to know. Call forwarding and blocking are making the jump to Fi, as is voicemail transcription. Still, porting is an undoubtedly a risky move right now — once you make the move, there’s no apparent way to go back.

It’s unclear if the aforementioned incompatibility is just a gigantic oversight, but there have been signs that Voice is in its twilight. Google folded much of the service’s functionality into Hangouts earlier this year, and Project Fi, in many ways, represents an evolution of and improvement upon Voice’s conceit. Google’s free calling and messaging features have always been contingent on a data connection, a connection that Project Fi provides. Admittedly, that’s unlikely to console longtime Voice users who weren’t expecting to have to make the change.

The only workaround right now is applying for a Project Fi invite with an email address that is not associated with your Google Voice account. Otherwise, you might want to consider holding off on signing up for now.


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