Instant Guide

Are vanity phone numbers the future?

An innovative new program from Sprint lets users replace their phone numbers with their names

Tired of your regular old seven-digit phone number? Feel like its cold, numerical nature doesn't adequately convey your personality? Well, if you're a Sprint customer, get ready to express yourself. The provider now allows users the option of creating their own vanity phone numbers — for a small fee, of course. Here, a guide:  

How do these vanity phone numbers work? 
Sprint has teamed up with Zoove Corp., which has a program known as StarStar Me (watch a video below) that lets users create their own custom numbers. Users can choose a name, nickname, or any other available word, as long as it is between five and 10 characters long. For example, a user named Jessica might choose "**Jessica." To reach her, callers press the star key twice, then dial the numbers corresponding to the characters in the word "Jessica."

Is this just for Sprint customers?
For now, yes. But Zoove plans to offer the service to all major U.S. phone carriers "by the first quarter of 2013, if not by the end of year,” CEO Joe Gillespie says. Callers on AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile can reach StarStar Me numbers on Sprint's system without incurring any extra charge.

What's the down side? 
For starters, it's not free. Users will pay $2.99 per month per vanity number (each phone can register up to two numbers). Also StarStar Me numbers can't receive text messages. And if you have a fairly common name, you might need to get creative with your vanity number. The Sprint website recommends customers get their StarStar Me numbers as soon as possible, "before someone else does!" 

Will this catch on? 
Sprint expects the program to be most successful with professionals, students, and families, says Kevin McGinnis, vice president of product and technology development, in a press release. A vanity phone number might sound appealing, says Terrence O'Brien at Engadget, but in the age of smartphones no one memorizes phone numbers anymore, so your clever, $3-a-month new number "will never be recognized by anyone." Plus, mobile giants like Apple and Google want to own identity, not outsource it to a small mobile marketing company, says Jon Koetsier at Venture Beat"StarStar Me is an innovative service and a step in the right direction," but it will definitely be tough to get off the ground.

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