No New Number Required For Google Voice 'Light'

Up until now, Google Voice, the search engine's online telecommunication system, offered an array of features, including multiple phone lines, call screening, and cheap long distance calls, but also required users to get a new Google phone number.

That requirement is changing slightly. In an effort to reel in more customers, the search engine company is offering a slightly reduced, or "lighter," version of Google Voice, in which users can keep their existing cell phone numbers in exchange for some of the added features and benefits of the original full-scale service, according to a Google blog post.

"We know not everyone wants to switch to a new home number, so it made sense for us to create a lighter version of Google Voice for people who are willing to trade some features for the ability to use their existing numbers," said Google's Craig Walker, Vincent Paquet and Pierre Lebeau in a company blog post.

Specifically, users now have the option of keeping their existing cell phone number when they sign up the new Google Voice light services, which have been pared down to voicemail services. Unlike most existing cellular services, the new Google Voice services will allow users to play back their messages online or view them on the Web, as well as forward them to their e-mail accounts or receive them in text message form on their cell phone.

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Meanwhile users who opt to get a new Google number will retain the full array of services that come with the service.

"Google Voice is about giving you more control over your communications. We hope this new option makes it easier for you to manage your messages and personalize your voicemail experience, " Google said.