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Google plugs new-age telephony into US carrier phones

Gives Voice to Sprint

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Google has teamed with US wireless carrier Sprint to integrate the carrier's cell phones with Google Voice – the new-age telephony web service that lets you attach a single number to multiple phones, turn your voicemail messages into emails, send free texts, make free domestic calls, and dial international numbers on the cheap.

Sprint serves about 50 million customers across the US.

Apple originally barred Google Voice from the iPhone, apparently acting on behalf of wireless partner AT&T, the country's largest carrier, and AT&T has directly criticized the service on an another front. But although the service appears to threaten carriers in some ways, Sprint has embraced it in full. Presumably, Google has forked over some cash.

Google has long offered a Google Voice app for Android. In the fall, after a complaint to the FCC, Apple finally allowed the service on the iPhone. And in January, Google let users port their existing mobile numbers to the service. But the partnership with Sprint goes several steps further.

Sprint customers can now use their Sprint number as their Google Voice number without porting, which involves service interruption and additional fees. Setting up your Sprint number as your Google Voice number is free. If you move to this setup, when someone rings your Sprint number, your other phones will ring at the same time, including, say, your home phone and your business phone. You can also answer calls through Gmail, which now offers a VoIP service based on technology Google purchased with its acquisition of Gizmo5.

Calls from Gmail and text messages sent from the Google Voice website (google.com/voice) will display your Sprint phone number.

If they'd rather, Sprint users also have the option of replacing their Sprint number with their existing Google Voice number. This lets you tap Google's service without installing a separate app, and it works on all Sprint phones.

Whichever of the two options you choose, Google Voice will replace your Sprint voicemail, providing transcribed voicemail messages, and it will connect your international calls at Google's low rates. You can also setup a personalized voicemail greeting for particular callers, block particular callers, and record phone conversations.

You can still send free texts from the Google Voice website. But Sprint will continue to charge for texts sent from your phone.

On Monday, Google and Sprint also unveiled the Nexus S 4G for Sprint, which lets you enable Google Voice directly from the Google Voice mobile app. Other Sprint users must enable the service through the Google Voice website. Google says that its Sprint integration will be available in the US "soon" and that when the service debuts, it will be gradually rolled out to all Google Voice users. It's available only in the US. ®

Update: This story has been updated to show that Google Voice is not yet available in Canada.

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