For those who haven't used it before, Google Voice is a half 'voice over IP' and half 'number virtualiation'. When you connect your phone with Google Voice, it automatically logs your text messages, calls, and voicemails (including transcribing them to text messages or e-mails). The service also allows you to make cheaper international calls, and route calls to different, or multiple phones at once, among many other features. Google Voice has many features, a list too long to repeat here, and Google offers native Voice clients for Apple iPhone / iOS and Google Android devices.
By default, when you sign up with Google Voice, Google gives you a 'Voice Number', that compliments your other phones. The important part here is that many of the features only work if you use your Google Voice number as your main number. (Basically everything except Visual Voicemail requires your phone number on Google Voice). Since most people don't want to give out a new number to friends and family, they port their number into Google Voice to get these extra features.
Sprint subscribers can resolve much of this automatically, by using the native Google Voice to Sprint integration. This is what I did when I ported my number to Sprint, earlier this year. (Technically I ported to 'Google Voice', and enabled native Sprint integration). However, Sprint's data service quality in Michigan is notoriously slow and spotty at best, and other carriers (such as AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and MetroPCS) do not offer Google Voice service natively.
And for non-native users, there are drawbacks to Google Voice. If you use your original phone number, then text messages outgoing from your phone do not show your Google Voice number, unless you specifically use the Google Voice app. (This also means your experience depends heavily on the quality of your Google Voice app. This isn't a problem on iPhone or Android devices, but can be tricky on WebOS or Windows Phone 7 devices, which have much poorer Google Voice applications). This also means you don't receive text messages unless you have a consistant data connection, or enable text forwarding, which then botches the sender phone number.
Since I'm usually on T-Mobile or AT&T, the Google Voice integration is more hassle than it's worth, and I decided to port away. And this is where I became nervous.
The internet is littered with many horror stories about porting away from Google Voice. Other Voice users recalled horror stories about having to wait 'up to 10 days', being unable to receive text messages from other Google Voice users, or being unable to use the Visual Voicemail service
I'm happy to report that, while this was likely true at the time, as of right now, porting out of Google Voice is relatively simple and pain free. I ported out about five days ago, and experienced none of the problems listed above. For others looking to do similar, here's one 'easy' way to port out:
That's it! About twenty minutes each day, for two days, and you've got your number back. Google should send you an e-mail notice that your number is gone, and you can now request a new Google Voice number on your account. You should also be able to re-add your old Google Voice number to your Google Voice account as a forwarding number, so it will work just as it did orignally, before porting your number in.