Google Voice is a service which was selectively released in March 2009. It became widely available (without invitation) to phone subscribers in the USA in June of 2010.
Google Voice provides a wide range of telecommunications functionality, and most of it is free. More features are expected in the future (such as more flexibility for integration with VOIP). A short list of features:
A single phone number which will call multiple phones at the same time (Free!).
Voicemail with transcription to email and call screening (a.k.a. ListenIn).
Conference calling if you have call waiting.
Inexpensive international calling.
Intelligent call forwarding.
While it is possible to use some of the features with your existing US mobile phone number, doing so will reduce the available feature-set (and in my mind eliminate some of the greatest potential benefits).
An additional benefit of using a new Google provided number is that you can select from thousands of available phone numbers. Hopefully you can select one that is lucky and/or easy to remember.
The Google Voice phone number selection process allows you to specify number or letter combinations of interest to you. It is probably worth spending some time selecting your number because once you give it out and print it on your business cards you probably won't want to change it.
Here is the process which I used to find a new Google Voice number (Sorry if this is US-centric at this point! ... Don't read this unless you are about to start the process, it is quite boring):
1) Log in to your Google account (Everybody has one, right?)
2) Search for 'Google Voice' or type www.google.com/voice
3) Use the pop-up window where you can specify an area code and / or a desired alphabetic or numeric string (see example image).
You will probably end up trying many different combinations before you find a number which suits you. Give some thought to whether you care about having a local number or one in some other specific area code. If you are not constrained by area codes you might have better luck in finding a meaningful mnemonic.
I chose to use the area code which I live in (to make it easier for some friends and relatives to remember).
I tried, without success, to find a meaningful seven letter word within my area code using www.math.toronto.edu/jjchew/scrabble/lists/common-7.html
I identified the blocks of numbers which Google Voice was using by specifying the area code and simple strings such as “cat”, “dog”, “egg”, “mou”, etc., until I stopped seeing new prefixes.
Once I had a list of prefixes, I used the following site to find whether any of them could be interesting three-letter words (or the obvious beginning of four or five letter words). For example, if the 386 prefix was available, it could be “FUN”. Or, 937 could be “YES”. This tool is quite helpful: www.vanitynumberlookup.com
This might also be useful to find longer words based on promising prefixes: www.oneacross.com/crosswords/
After identifying a promising prefix, you can search for all the available numbers (by specifying the area code and prefix) and copy them to a spreadsheet. Sort the spreadsheet and then test the last four digits of each number for related words or acronyms, again using:
Hopefully, you will find a good word to compliment your prefix. If not, begin the process again.
Once you select a number, the remaining steps are quite straightforward.
Good luck on finding a good number!