If you prefer not to give your phone number to Google, don't.
You can no longer do that.
I just tried setting up a gmail address -- it won't work unless I give them a phone number.
And for an old address that you set up before this policy, they have the nice habit of blocking pop3s/smtps access from time to time, forcing you to login via web through a page where they pester you again about adding a phone number
Because of that wanton blocking I can no longer trust to use my gmail address for any serious stuff, and unlike with my phone number, there's no EU directive to force them to port it to another provider