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Sprint Teams Up With Google Voice


Google Voice is getting a lot easier for Sprint mobile phone customers to use starting Monday. The two companies are making it possible for customers to integrate their Sprint and Google Voice numbers, regardless of whether their phones are smart or dumb.
Sprint customers who don’t have Google Voice can now choose to use their existing Sprint number as their Google Voice number, without having to go through the hassle of porting it over to Google.
The move gives Sprint a marketing tool to win new customers — something Sprint will need if AT&T gets clearance to buy T-Mobile. The partnership also offloads some of the work in building new voicemail and phone features to Google, while the search and advertising giant finds a way to tie even more users to its web of software products.
It also marks the first time that a mobile carrier has partnered with Google Voice — which many had seen as a way for Google to eventually develop a phone service that bypassed traditional operators.
Google allowed any U.S. cellphone user to port their existing mobile number to Google Voice in January. That long-awaited feature makes it simple to switch to Google Voice because you don’t have train people to call a new number. However, the porting option is fraught with peril, due to the vagaries of cellphone contracts and mobile operator’s customer service.
The new Sprint partnership makes it much simpler to choose Google Voice. When you sign up, your Sprint number just becomes your Google Voice number without the hassle and expense of porting — or the need to download an app.
Once it’s set up, incoming calls to a Sprint user’s current number can also ring work and home numbers, as well as software inside Gmail. Those who switch also get low-cost international calls through Google Voice, call screening, voicemail transcription, phone number blocking, the ability to switch a call from phone-to-phone while in progress, free conference calling and per-person voicemail greetings.
Calls from Gmail and text messages sent using the Google Voice website, http://google.com/voice, will also display your Sprint number. Currently, domestic calls from Gmail and SMS messages sent from Google.com/voice are free.
This feature is available for all Sprint phones, whether they are smartphones or flip-phones.
As for text messages, text messages sent directly from a Sprint phone still count for Sprint billing purposes, though those who have a smartphone can get free outgoing text messages using the Google Voice app.
To activate this on your Sprint phone, simply sign up for a Google Voice account, click “I want to use my mobile number,” and enter your Sprint phone number.
For existing Google Voice users who have a Sprint phone, the new change allows you to set your phone so that all outgoing calls show your Google Voice number (not the underlying number) without the need of an app. Currently that’s possible, but it requires the Google app and the outgoing call takes a sometimes-quality-degrading hop through Google’s servers, since the system works much like a calling card.
To turn this on, look for your list of phones in your Google Voice account and find a link next to your mobile number saying “Enable Google Voice on Your Sprint phone.”
In the new system, both outgoing and incoming domestic calls travel only on Sprint’s phone network, which should improve their quality. Outgoing international calls will go through Google’s prepaid system which has rates comparable to calling cards and Skype.
A word of warning, however.
Google Voice can’t handle MMS messages (text messages with photos), and any sent to a true Google Voice number will be lost without any notification to you or the sender. It’s not clear whether this will hold true for Sprint customers who choose to use their current number as their Google Voice number but one assumes MMS messages will get through to them. If you send an MMS from your phone, your underlying number will be used to send them.
Neither service works for Sprint’s business customers or for those on Boost Mobile, Sprint’s popular pre-paid cellphone service.
The feature will begin rolling out Monday. Google Voice is currently for U.S. residents only.
Google says the feature will be rolled out gradually to users over the coming weeks, so current Google Voice users on Sprint should check regularly to see if their account is eligible.

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