Do we still need antiquated telephone numbers in our digital age?

With the rise of email, social networks, built-in messaging systems, VoIP, and services like Google Voice, fixed phones and digits-long telephone numbers are beginning to feel outdated.

In the US, more than half of young adults aged 25 to 29 don't have a home phone any more, reports the Federal Communications Commission in its 15th wireless communications report.

They use their mobile phones and internet connection to stay in touch with their friends and family.

In a world where we are inundated with smartphones and applications that allow us to communicate via online profiles and email addresses, the need for an old-fashioned phone number has been greatly diminished.

It is possible keep in contact with just a 3G data chip in your smartphone and applications like Skype, Facebook, FaceTime, Google's new Huddle group messaging service and Apple's soon-to-be-released iOS 5 messaging system - try it, you'll be surprised how much you can actually achieve without a phone number!

While it may be possible to live without fixed digits in 2011, it can be frustrating, mostly because the experience is not yet unified.

Services such as Google Voice aim to ease the transition from fixed home phones and phone numbers to mobile profiles that follow you around regardless of the device you use or the phone number that is linked to it. However, for the moment, Google Voice is limited to the US and, works best when you have one or more phone numbers to tie it to.

"I'm afraid that at this point in time, old-fashioned phone numbers are still vital to our communications," said Nokia in a June 29 post on its Nokia Conversations blog, "even in the era of the mobile Internet. Even though in the United States, we have 10 digit phone numbers that seem antiquated in this data-centric era, the numeric phone system remains king when trying to contact someone."

As we come to rely more heavily on social networks, smartphones, VoIP and the cloud it will be interesting to see how long the phone number rules the mobile perch.

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