Sprint is integrating the Google Voice service into all of its phones, giving users a new way to make cheap international calls.
Sprint says that Google Voice will soon be available “on all Sprint CDMA phones” and that it will come preloaded as an application on Google’s new Android-based Nexus S 4G smartphone. The carrier says that users who want to run all their calls, text messages and voice mail through Google Voice can simply sign up for the service at google.com/googlevoice/sprint.
Sprint customers will be able to use their existing phone numbers as their official Google Voice number, negating any need to take on an additional number to take advantage of the service. Sprint says that users will be able to use their Sprint number as the default number for up to six devices, whether they’re home, office or wireless phones. In other words, someone can use one phone number that will ring for a user at up to six different locations.
Google Voice was designed in part to make it easier for users to change mobile carriers without sacrificing their phone numbers and also to give users several add-on features that are not offered by carriers. For example, Google Voice can provide simultaneous ringing for both landline and wireless devices using the same phone number and it can serve as a hub for SMS as it lets users send text messages from any of their devices or even right over the Web on their computer.
Google Voice is different from over IP-based voice applications because when you make a call on the service it initially goes through the standard public switch telephone network to the Google cloud. From there, Google sends the call to its final destination. This way, the person receiving your call sees it coming from a Google phone number rather than the number given by wireless carriers. Additionally, Google Voice can use VoIP technology to route calls internationally and offers international rates that are vastly cheaper than those offered by the major telcos.
The decision to allow third-party voice applications onto their networks reflects an acceptance by carriers that they soon won’t be able to charge for minute-based cellular voice plans and will have to change their billing plans to focus exclusively on data consumption. AT&T got the ball rolling last year when it announced it was dropping unlimited data plans for the iPhone in favor of plans that offered between 200MB and 2GB of data consumption per month. Verizon shortly followed suit by saying it would implement a similar pricing scheme for its 4G LTE services.