When phone numbers didn’t end

My 2017 editorial, “The end of phone numbers?” is only two years old but it’s already beginning to seem like I wrote it at the wrong time. In this longform article I brought out evidence that said people had been talking about the end of phone numbers since 2008. And yet, here we are. We all have one. Some of us have two. And they’re not going away.

Or have they?

I still think phone numbers are a “dead man walking.” Here’s my evidence.

You don’t know anyone’s phone number

If you lost your phone, would you be able to call anyone? If your parents don’t live in the house you grew up in, do you know their numbers? Do you even know the main number at your office? (I do, because I repeat it on this blog a lot. Phone numbers are technically still out there, but there was a time when your phone number was a big part of your identity.

You don’t give anyone your phone number

Think about the cliché of the 1980s businessman trying to pick someone up in a bar. He gives someone his phone number on a printed business card. Boy those days are past. Today if you meet someone knew, you take their phone and text yourself. You know your own number (probably) and that’s how you give the number to them. Chances are your new friend or paramour won’t ever know your number.

You don’t even have to use your phone number

I have friends whose phone numbers I never even got. And yet I text and voice call them. Apple’s iMessage works with email addresses as well as phone numbers, and so does its Facetime Audio system. If you prefer something more platform agnostic, you can voice call with WhatsApp or Skype just as easily. Those services will assign you a phone number if you want to work with someone outside their sphere but no one really does that.

The biggest evidence that phone numbers are dead

Businesses don’t even use them. Well, they do, but they don’t advertise them as they used to. Most businesses, at least the smart ones, make sure their Google My Business listings are accurate. When you search for them, Google provides you with a very usefull little button you can use to call the business. You might never know the phone number of your local business, and for sure you won’t care.

Think about how far we’ve come from the days when a phone number was a big part of a business’s identity. Depending on where you are in the country, this ad may seem familiar to you:

You might not have even known the name of the company offhand, but that jingle sure stuck with you. For those who couldn’t remember numbers, some companies used the old-school letter designations for their phone numbers. I warn you, click on this next video only if you are a fan of pure unadulterated evil:

It’s probably too late, you probably already have it stuck in your head. Yes, that phone number will never go away. Chances are the rest of them… already have.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.