Google has created a mobile app for its Google Voice service, right now only for Android and BlackBerry with an iPhone app to come. Think of this as Skype for mobile only more so, because there’s a usable number associated with the service and integration with your phone’s contacts.
Effectively what the mobile app allows you to do is use your Google Voice number as your mobile phone number: to send SMS messages and/or make all calls or international calls only, depending on your setting choices. People on the other end will see the Google Voice number on caller ID and not the carrier-designated mobile phone number. This makes your mobile number (and carrier) potentially irrelevant. You maintain your Google Voice number as your primary number, change carriers, plans and so on (provided there’s a mobile app for your handset) and your contacts will never notice.
When Google Voice launched we asked whether Google was positioning itself as a “next-gen telco.” The answer, now, is effectively yes. As Om Malik says, “The Google Voice app essentially reduces the cell phone carrier to a dumb pipe.” There’s so much more integrated functionality here than what the carriers offer it’s almost inevitable that more and more consumers will adopt it, provided they understand the benefits and can get numbers they’re relatively happy with. (I recently paid the $10 to get a more desirable phone number.)
All that Google Voice mobile customers need is a data plan (preferably unlimited) to use this service as a substitute for a voice plan. Fearing this very sort of “disintermediation” carriers won’t be offering data-only plans any time soon. Imagine if you simply used a $15 or $20 monthly unlimited data plan for all your calling, SMS and mobile internet activity. That scenario is not that far-fetched with Google Voice.
Here’s more on how it works and the various features:
There’s more discussion on Techmeme.