Not anymore: Google now allows you to port your existing cell phone number to Google Voice, so you can use all of the convenient and free Google Voice features without invoking a different phone number.
But is number porting for you? Moving your cell phone number from your cell phone to the Google Voice service is a big step, so you should consider all the implications carefully. Here are 5 things to consider:
1. You'll have to reconfigure your mobile phone plan. When you port your number to Google Voice, Google takes the number away from your cell phone. That will cancel your service plan. Let me be very clear about that: Your existing cell phone plan gets cancelled. There are potential early termination fees associated with this maneuver, and if you had an awesome, cheap plan that you were grandfathered into, you could lose it forever. Be sure you chat with your service provider before you do anything rash. After you port your number, you'll need to re-establish a service plan for your cell phone.
2. It's not free. Yes, Google Voice is free. But Google charges a $20 fee to port your number. And there could be other fees as well. As I already mentioned, you'll need to sign up for a new service plan, so costs might vary. And Google Voice is only guaranteed to be free through the end of 2011. Next year, Google could start charging for the service.
3. You can't dial with your cell phone's dialer anymore. If you do, your outgoing calls will appear to coming from the new number you got when you set up a new account for your phone in #1. Instead, you'll have to use the Google Voice app for your phone.
4. Brace yourself for outages. You thought it was bad when you drive through cell phone dead zones? Get ready for times when the Google service goes down, taking your ability to send and receive calls with it. To be fair, Google Voice has proven to be a fairly reliable service so far. But as any engineer can tell you, if your cell phone network is 90% reliable and Google Voice is also 90% reliable and both must work in order to make a call, then that makes your phone only 81% reliable.
5. On the plus side, this change will give your existing phone number all the benefits and features of the Google Voice service. So you will be able to record incoming calls, get text transcriptions of all of your voice mails, and make your cell phone number ring anywhere and everywhere -- at home, in the office, you name it.
Read more about porting your number at the Google Voice blog.