In theory, call management programs like Google Voice are attractive, except they’re useless to people who don’t want to hand out new phone numbers to their contacts.
3jam, which launched today, solves the problem by letting users port over existing phone numbers to the service, which otherwise is a lot like Google Voice. Starting at $5 per month, 3jam offers call forwarding, voicemail transcription, text by e-mail and low call rates. It can also forward calls to Skype or IM, which Google Voice does not.
But 3jam’s greatest asset, at least for now, is number portability. This can be done directly through 3jam’s Web site and costs a one-time fee of $25.
Porting a number also cancels service with the user’s existing provider, which could be problematic. Dropping a cell phone contract early can result in hefty charges, and doing so even out of contract leaves the user without any wireless service at all. Technically, the user would have to sign up for another cell phone plan and number, and have 3jam include that number when forwarding calls.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing if 3jam can establish a foothold in the marketplace and prove itself as a trustworthy place to store telephone numbers. CEO and Co-Founder Andy Jagoe wouldn’t forecast how many users he’d like to have down the line, but he said the company’s plan to stick around entails white labeling 3jam’s service to other companies, as it’s doing with text messaging for Peek, and offering additional service like group text messaging.
On portability, though, 3jam could get outdone by the very service it’s trying to beat. TechCrunch has reported that Google is working on number portability and hopes to roll it out by year-end. If that happens, 3jam’s going to have a tough time competing with free when it comes to nabbing more users.