But in reality it’s a massive and positive change: The world's biggest phone OS will automatically associate a contact with Google's identity system, Google+, rather than their telephone-system digits. So when people want to call me, they don't call a 10-digit number and hope I'm "there." They call +MikeElgan, and the phone, tablet, laptop or wearable computing device I choose will connect the call.
Let’s consider the implications of this.
Right now, Google+ already lets you send email to people without telling them your email address. I’ll show this to you with my own Google account (and feel free to email me): http://Google.me/+MikeElgan
Next to my name, you’ll see an envelope icon, a round talk bubble icon and a square talk bubble icon. Clicking on the envelope enables you to send me an email without knowing my email address. Clicking on the round talk bubble lets you connect to me via Hangouts, which includes text messaging or instant messaging-like chat without knowing my phone number, or connecting via a video call without knowing my phone number. (Clicking on the square talk bubble icon lets you send me a private post on Google+ itself.)
This is how phone numbers should and, I believe, will work in the very near future. To add me to your contacts, you’ll enter my name and then choose me from the list of Mike Elgans on Google+, with the most likely Mike Elgans rising to the top (Google is good at figuring this kind of thing out based on location, contacts and other personal data).
Once you’ve selected me, you’ll see my profile picture, all the contact information I choose to share with people who add me (such as my mailing address). You’ll call, email, chat or video chat with me without knowing or caring about any of my numbers or addresses. You’ll connect with me, not a number.
Of course, Apple, Amazon, Facebook and other identity merchants will offer similar features. But regardless of which you choose, the use of phone numbers will fade away into non-existence.
And good riddance to them. Phone numbers are already obsolete.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.