Google has silently taken the first step in disentangling Google Fi from Google Voice, with the stated goal of supporting both on a single Google account. Late last year, the company revealed that it was changing how Fi would store voicemails, separating them from Google Voice, but keeping them accessible otherwise in all the same locations as before.

The news was unceremoniously dropped onto the Google Fi help forums in late November of last year, where it slid under the radar until now. In the announcement, a community manager explained that Google Fi would no longer show subscribers' voicemails in Google Voice, though they would continue to be accessible through dialer apps, Hangouts (if configured to), and by calling your own phone number.

Google said this was the "first step" in supporting separate Google Voice and Google Fi numbers on the same account. That last detail makes this news a bit bigger than a nearly silent announcement in company support forums would imply.

Currently, to use Google Fi, you have to effectively give up on Google Voice — the company treats the two services as mutually exclusive, stating so quite clearly in even its support documents with a big, bold header that says "Google Voice doesn't work with Google Fi." If you sign up for Fi on a Google account that already has Google Voice configured, it means you give up Google Voice's features and have to either port your Google Voice number over to Fi or surrender it entirely. (Note that there is an obnoxious multiple account workaround, though, where you swap your Google Voice number to a second Google account to keep both services, though on separate Google accounts.) For long-time users of Google Voice, the incompatibility makes Google Fi a dealbreaker.

In isolation, this tweak to voicemail, which just prevents it from appearing in Google Voice, might seem insubstantial, but it's actually an indicator that Google is hard at work behind the scenes disentangling Google Fi from Google Voice, and the company is explicitly clear this is just the first step in eventually allowing us to use both together on a single Google account.

We reached out to Google for more information about this change to Google Fi, and if any future changes were planned to further separate Fi from Voice, but apart from confirming the details in the help forum announcement, the company had nothing more to share with us. Hopefully, any future changes to Google Fi/Voice are announced by Google with a bit more fanfare.

  • Thanks:
  • Lucas