Google Voice has been around for quite some time and for the most part, users are very happy with the service.

The biggest complaint, however, was that individuals had to get a new phone number—a Google Voice number—in order to use the service.

Google now offers number porting for a small fee, so you can switch your favorite number to Google Voice—and get all the fun services that come with it.

How it works

Before you start swtiching phone numbers, it is worth noting that you can still sign up for free for Google Voice with a Google provided number. The downside, as noted above, is that creates yet another phone number for people to call.

If you have had the same mobile number for ten years, but want the advantages of Google Voice, you can port that number into Google Voice for a $20 fee. What that means is your wireless carrier no longer has the phone number, Google does.

This is where things get tricky. When you port your number, you are canceling your service with your existing wireless carrier—beware of any termination fees. Google has your number, but they do not provide phone service. So, you need to sign up for a different phone number with your wireless carrier. Next, you go into your Google Voice account (with the new ported number) and forward calls to your new number. That means you have a new number, but all calls to your old number (now Google Voice), will go to your new number.

It is not the easiest process in the world, but describing it makes it sound more complicated than it is. The Google Voice blog has plenty of instructions for completing the process.

Why it is worth the hassle

Google Voice has a bunch of sweet features, features that are not available on other applications like Skype. One of the best is free voicemail transcription. If you miss a call, Google will send you the voicemail along with a transcription. The transcriptions are not perfect, but they are usually good enough to give you an idea of what the message says.

Another great feature is call scheduling/screening. If you only want your Google Voice number to ring during business hours, you can do that. If you want calls to go to voicemail between midnight and six a.m., you can do that. You can also require that unidentified callers announce their name, which you then hear before deciding whether to answer the call.

Another neat feature is that you can stick a Google Voice plugin on your website. By clicking on the Google Voice button, a client can call you directly from their computer—cool stuff.

Porting your number is not the easiest process, but the added features of Google Voice should make the switch worthwhile.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vincentgallegos/3724885701)