What did I do with my US number?

Among the hundreds of things I had to figure out for Remote Year, my phone plan and therefore my phone number was probably one of the most confusing.

As many New Yorkers can attest to, the 917 area code mobile number is muy especial — it’s almost akin to New York real estate. And since I’ll probably never own any actual real estate in New York City, this is the closest thing I’ll ever get. So naturally, the thought of relinquishing my 917 number for a 646, or worse a 332 number, is just downright embarrassing. You may not want to admit it or even know it but New Yorkers willjudge you for your area code.

Thank the Old Gods and the New for Google Voice.

What is it? It’s an internet-based service that allows people to reach you at a particular phone number even if you switch cell phone carriers (or in my case, cancel it altogether), go on vacation or move to another country.

So what’s so cool about it? Because I opted to cancel my AT&T Wireless contract for a local SIM card in each country (the price differential was a no brainer), I didn’t want the hassle of sharing that local SIM card number with everyone every month. BUT if you your phone number to Google Voice, folks who know you at your original number can still reach you at that same number, even without a wireless carrier. Porting transfers the rights to the phone number from the phone company to Google Voice, which is why people can still use their phones to call me or iMessage to text me at my 917 number and I can still receive those calls and messages on my phone — just that it’ll come through on my end in my Google Voice app.

What’s cooler is that now you can actually use Google Hangouts to make calls through your Google Voice number (with certain limitations). The other day, I had to call Chase to inform them that I was going to be in Morocco for a few days so I wanted to make sure my card wouldn’t get declined while I was there. I opened Google Hangouts on my computer, dialed the number on the back of my credit card and they received the call via my old 917 number. And when they had to call me back (for verification purposes), they were able to call my 917 number and I was able to answer it from my phone.

How much does it cost? There’s a one-time $20 fee to port your number to Google Voice.

How do you actually do this? First of all, do NOT cancel your phone plan before you start the transfer because Google Voice will need to call your phone with a code to verify the transfer. You can cancel your phone plan once the port is finished (This process is also not immediate. For me, it took almost 2 days). I would also recommend checking with your carrier if you have any early termination fees.

Open Google Voice on your computer. If you haven’t used Google Voice before, set up a new Google Voice account. You’ll be asked to pick a new number but don’t worry, you’ll port your original number at a later point. You can also keep this new number too since it all gets forwarded to the same place: You.

  • At the top left, click Menu > Legacy Google Voice
  • Click Settings
  • Click the “Phones” tab
  • Next to your current number, click Change / Port. (For some reason, my current number didn’t show up until a whole 24 hours later after I created my Google Voice account. So if you don’t see it immediately, don’t panic like I did. Give it a day or two)
  • Select I want to use my mobile number. Follow the onscreen instructions to set up your new number and pay the $20 fee.

Something to note: Once your number has successfully ported to Google Voice and even before you cancel your phone plan, you will no longer be connected to your carrier. Luckily, I procrastinated on this until the last few days I was in NYC so I only had 1 day of no cell-service. Otherwise, you’ll have to be in Wi-Fi range to get any calls or texts (through Google Voice).

But what about the number associated with my WhatsApp? Because I already had WhatsApp on my phone, it initially registered with my original US number. So when I put in my local SIM card, it gave me two options: If I wanted to update my WhatsApp number to the new SIM card number OR if I wanted to keep it registered to my US number. I chose to keep it registered to my US number and will continue to do so for the year.

As far as keeping in touch, I prefer a combo of WhatsApp and Skype (I find the video quality on Skype much better) since they both offer texting and video calls within the app without eating into minutes. But since not everyone has bought into the amazingness that is WhatsApp, Google Voice is a great alternative. That and it’s also comforting to know that people can reach me for emergencies if they needed to 🙂

and what happens after Remote Year? If I do return back to New York after Remote Year (big IF), then all I need to do is port my number out of Google Voice to any carrier of my choosing and voila! I get to continue using that same number.

Originally published at https://allthingslil.net on June 16, 2018.