Google Inc has introduced a new feature that will allow consumers to use its Google Voice service without switching to a special phone number, potentially broadening the appeal of the nascent, and controversial, service.
Google said late Monday that new users of its service will be able to have the calls that they don’t answer forwarded to a special Google Voice electronic mailbox, essentially bypassing the voicemail provided by their phone carriers.
Google Voice offers a variety of voicemail management features, including unlimited storage and text transcription of voicemail messages.
The service also allows consumers to make low-priced international calls by routing portions of the call over Google’s infrastructure and the Internet.
Until now, using Google Voice required adopting a special Google phone number. The new feature allows people to retain their existing phone numbers.
Craig Walker, a group product manager for real time communications at Google, said the company will provide users with a special code to enter into their phone which forwards unanswered calls to a Google-maintained voicemailbox.
Walker said the call-forwarding feature did not require striking special deals with the phone carriers.
“Virtually all the carriers already allow this,” said Walker.