March 23, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka
Sprint recently announced plans to integrate with Google Voice, a step that will make it possible to use all of the Google Voice features without signing up for a new phone number. The Sprint- Google Voice hand-off has excited many, but also opened up some questions that need to be answered.
Androinica.com returned to Sprint’s staging area at CTIA 2011 to see a special demo of the set-up process and gain some clarity on how the Google Voice process will work. Sprint plans to let every customer – regardless of phone – use their current phone number as their Google Voice number soon, and the process will be painless once it rolls out. A Sprint representative showed me a demo of merging the two services, and the entire process was complete in less than 3 minutes. Users can sign-up with their Gmail account to be notified of when it launches. In “the coming weeks,” an update will roll-out in stages.
But how will the Google Voice and Sprint connection work once established? Here are the answers to a couple of common questions that I and readers have asked since Monday’s announcement.
What’s the difference from what I already have?
Nothing, really. The same services of Google Voice are available, but the process requires one less step. Instead of having to use the Google Voice app to send text messages or place calls, the default Android dialer does that and uses everything natively. This also means that you will not need to use a Google Voice Android app.
What happens if I want to turn it off?
Should you decide to stop using Google Voice with your Sprint number, simply log-in to your GV account and go to the Settings page. There will be an “Enabled by Sprint” icon next to your number. Click the “Disable” link and Sprint will return to your normal services with a few minutes. You can then re-enable service, but it takes a while to refresh. Google and Sprint instantly know when you need to start/stop service and go into motion to handle your preference in a short time.
Note: You DO NOT have to turn this on at all. If you currently have Google Voice with a secondary number, nothing has to change for you. Continue to use the app and your existing GV number.
What if I port my number to another carrier?
Google will recognize when your number is ported to AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon. All of the functions you’ve used with Sprint will break and the next time you log-in to GV, you will be prompted to create a new number tied to Google Voice.
Do I lose my Google Voice number if I switch?
Switching to Sprint integration will ultimately forfeit your current Google Voice number. However, Google will allow you to switch back to that number within 90 days. If you do not reclaim that number within the 90 day window, it goes back into the open numbers pool and can be used by anyone.
Will MMS work?
MMS will work on your phone the same way that it always has. However, it will not be integrated into Google Voice as the feature is not currently supported on GV. Sprint says it would be exciting to include, but that’s currently not an option.
Are all my calls going to be free mobile-to-mobile?
Yes. If you have an unlimited mobile-to-mobile plan, all Sprint calls to or from your contacts using a cell phone are treated as if you are on a mobile phone. So you can then forward to the home phone or call up a friend and Sprint treats it just the same as if you were calling from your Nexus S 4G or HTC EVO.
Is Sprint giving up all that money to sell only data plans?
No, they’re not only selling data plans, but Sprint is willing to offer GV deist the threat it poses to services. It’s viewed as an extension of services, so “bringing your Sprint number into the cloud” will be something customers enjoy. It’s likely that this could make Sprint more attractive than rivals, so they’ll make up the money lost from extra SMS messages and calling plans. It’s a business strategy often referred to as “make up for it in volume.” It’s better to have 100 people spend $20 than to have $50 people $30.