Sprint is doing for mobile phone numbers what internet handles did for electronic mail. For $3 a month, customers can register for a personalized cell phone number.

All the numbers begin with two asterisks and end with a name or another word between 5 and 9 letters or numbers.

The StarStar app can send audio or text responses for missed calls, share contact information, and block incoming calls. The phone numbers are linked to a social media or StarStar profile.

Vanity numbers were a stroke of genius in the days when people had to memorize seven digits, sometimes more, to be able to dial someone from a pay phone. Spelling out words instead of numbers (1-800-flowers, for instance), the handles served as handy mnemonic devices.

When the mobile phone brought portable contact lists into our lives, we promptly forgot every phone number we ever learned — even our own.

Sprint’s new StarStar numbers might sound old-fashioned, but the carrier’s contact lists are a beast to sort through (at least they are on the HTC EVO 4G). Simpler numbers should help.

According to AllThingsD, Sprint got the numbers from Zoove, a company in Palo Alto, CA that has millions of them and has been selling the numbers to businesses.

The vanity numbers are assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis.