Sprint’s Google Voice Integration is an Epic Failure

Google is the type of company that is always working on something new. The type of company that breaks ground in one area and then quickly moves onto the next. This is fantastic for consumers and the industry as a whole, but it often comes at a price — when Google moves on to that next big thing, it often leaves its past achievements to rot away.

A shining example of that is Google Voice.

I’ve had my Google Voice number since 2010, and I’ve used it as my primary number for the past couple of years. It served me well in a number of ways; for instance, it gave me an easy way to send and receive texts from almost any device. It also rang both my phone and my Gmail inbox at the same time, so I rarely missed a call. It made leaving a carrier easy, since all I had to do was add my new phone to Google Voice to continue receiving calls. And one of my favorites: it let me block calls, something most carriers still won’t let you do.

I moved to Sprint last year when it got the iPhone 4S, as the Sprint + Google Voice integration meant that I could experience the best of both worlds. And, for a little while, I did. But somewhere along the line, things went haywire. Calls made from my iPhone would show my Sprint number instead of my Google Voice number. Same with text messages. People would be confused when I called or messaged them because they didn’t have that number saved in their phones. I’d be confused because I assumed Sprint’s Google Voice feature was working. Add those to this list of cons you experience as part of using Google Voice as your primary Sprint number:

  • Can’t send MMS messages unless it comes from your normal Sprint number
  • Receiving MMS messages is spotty at best
  • iMessages come from your normal Sprint number
  • Gmail inbox rings about two or three times before your Sprint phone does

It all came to a head in the past three days as I realized I couldn’t make outbound calls from my iPhone. Inbound calls came in just fine. Data worked. But I was getting an error when I tried to make a call, regardless of the number I was dialing.

After an hour on the line with Sprint customer service, and after I reset my iPhone’s settings, reset the network settings, and eventually reset the entire phone (clearing all of its data), we discovered that Google Voice was the culprit. By disabling Google Voice integration for my Sprint account, my phone began functioning normally again. When I asked the support technician if this was typical, she stated that a lot of people have been experiencing issues with the Google Voice integration on their Sprint phones.

So I made the tough decision today to port my Google Voice number over to Sprint. I’m going to lose all of the Google Voice features that I love, but I’ll be able to make full use of my iPhone without wondering which number is going to show up on someone’s phone. It’s disappointing that I have to bail on the service to make my phone work properly, but these problems have been present for a while and it doesn’t seem like Google is in any hurry to fix them.

For me, it makes investments in Google’s other technologies seem like more of a risk. If I sign up for this service, will I pour all of my information into it, only to have it break when Google has stopped caring about it? What about this Google Glass thing? Should I pick one up, or will Google leave it to collect dust after its moved on to the next next big thing?

In the case of Google Voice, I won’t be hanging around to find out. Sure, I’ll miss the transcribed voicemails, and I’ll have to ignore the occasional call from a telemarketer, but I’ll be free of the bugs that plague the service Google seems to have left in the rear-view mirror. If you’re on any other carrier using Google Voice, I’m sure it still works fine. But the Sprint integration has absolutely flopped.

If Google patches things up with its Sprint integration feature, we’ll let you know.

About the author

— Shawn Farner

Shawn Farner is a Harrisburg-based tech blogger who has been involved in online media for over eight years. He covers consumer electronics, Web companies, and gaming.

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  1. Not sure if you understand how GV integration w/ Sprint works. Once you’re actually integrated, your GV # and your Sprint # are the same number. “Calls made from my iPhone would show my Sprint number instead of my Google Voice number”–this indicates to me that you had a GV # that you were just using on your Sprint phone, not that you were integrated. In which case there are settings (at least in Android phones) to choose if your outgoing calls should show your GV# or your Sprint #.

    Integration is also different from porting. Porting just transfers your number from your carrier to GV. Then you need a new number on your carrier and you use the two together just like any other non-integrated GV + [any phone carrier] numbers. The unique thing about the Sprint/GV integration is making your GV and Sprint numbers the same without porting. So when you make a call it doesn’t matter if its your Sprint number or GV number, since they’re the same.

    Please don’t tech blog about things you don’t understand and confuse people about this service. It had a rocky start way back in it’s infancy but has been working amazing for a while now. And then you went to cast doubt on Google’s other products and services because you couldn’t read the FAQ about GV integration before blogging about it. I’m glad this misinformation only has a handful of shares. I’m regretting clicking on it in Google and raising it’s place in the search results.

    1. Once you integrate your Sprint phone number with Google Voice, there is an option that is supposed to let you use your Google Voice number as your Sprint number. Here’s a screenshot: http://i.i.com.com/cnwk.1d/i/tim/2011/05/18/GoogleVoice_Sprint_EnableScreen.png

      Also, here’s a post from Michael Arrington of TechCrunch fame who appears to have had the same issues with Sprint & Google Voice: http://techcrunch.com/2012/12/12/google-voice-sprint-iphone-hopeless/

      Thanks for stopping by.

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