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T-Mobile Lets Multiple Devices Share a Single Phone Number
Posted December 8, 2016
T-Mobile Lets Multiple Devices Share a Single Phone Number
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By Rachel Lerman. Updated December 8, 2016 9:39AM

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Gone is the time when an incoming phone call meant just your phone would ring. Now your phone will ring, your work phone will ring, your computer will ring, your tablet will ring, your ears will ring -- that is, if you want them to.

T-Mobile US's latest eye-grabbing technology lets you use one phone number across multiple devices, regardless of operating system, so calls and messages can come in no matter which device you're using. The technology also works in the reverse: One phone can carry multiple numbers, getting rid of the need for separate work and personal phones.

The technology, called Digits, is presented in a 15-minute magenta-heavy video featuring T-Mobile Chief Operating Officer Mike Sievert and Chief Technical Officer Neville Ray. As Ray explains the technical details, Sievert types "translations" for non-engineers, including descriptions such as "It's advanced AF" and "Suck it carriers. You can't copy this one."

The latter is a reference to T-Mobile's outspoken competitiveness against other carriers, mainly Nos. 1 and 2 Verizon Wireless and AT&T, in its bid to get more customers to sign up for its service. The campaigns seem to be working; T-Mobile added 2 million customers during the third quarter.

The T-Mobile team spent about two years working on the technology, Ray said, which aims to replace existing similar products such as Google Voice and AT&T's NumberSync.

Digits' main advantages seem to be its ability to work on pretty much any device, regardless of the cellular carrier. Even phones signed up with Verizon or AT&T can use the Digits app.

T-Mobile also said Digits phone calls are "carrier-grade," meaning they are prioritized over data and are meant to interact well with cell towers even if you're on the go.

Digits is now being tested with a small group of T-Mobile customers, and should be available to the public next year. T-Mobile hasn't said how much the service will cost.

A big potential group of customers may be sales teams within businesses. Digits makes it possible for an incoming call to ring multiple members of a team.

The technology works around the assumption that a phone number is tied to a person, not to a device. T-Mobile calls it an "identity management platform" connected to each individual's login.

One thing was missing from T-Mobile's lengthy video: any mention of Sprint. T-Mobile surpassed Sprint to become the No. 3 carrier last year.

The No. 4 carrier has made headlines recently as some guess that the incoming Trump administration may be in favor of deregulation, possibly paving the way for a T-Mobile-Sprint merger, an idea that was shut down a couple years ago.

© 2017 Seattle Times syndicated under contract with NewsEdge/Acquire Media. All rights reserved.

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