msnbc.com
updated 6/22/2010 8:46:15 PM ET 2010-06-23T00:46:15

Google Voice, a free service that lets you combine your phones under one number, check voicemail anywhere and send and receive text messages without a phone, is finally open to the public after a year in exclusive invite-only status.

Google's blog announced Tuesday morning that it would admit anyone who wanted to sign up, and not only those who had received invitations. (Despite this restriction, membership had grown to over a million active users.) "Today, after lots of testing and tweaking, we’re excited to open up Google Voice to the public," the blog said.

Service features include "one number to ring all your phones, voicemail that works like e-mail, free calls and text messages to the U.S. and Canada, low-priced international calls and more," said the post. In addition, the service allows you to send text messages from a Web app on your browser or on your smartphone.

The requirement of an invitation was not the only thing keeping people from the service, however. In order to use all of the services offered by Google Voice, you needed to use the phone number they gave you. This is still a requirement. It is not possible to port your number to the service, as you would when switching from one phone number to the next. Nevertheless, Google recently began offering voicemail and other limited services that people can use with their existing phone numbers.

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