T-Mobile Rethinks The Phone Number

T-Mobile users will soon be able to have a single number that covers multiple devices, as well as having the same phone cover two or more lines. The Digits feature is being extended to all customers next week after several months of testing.

In effect, Digits is an extension of the Google Voice idea that breaks down the link between a phone number and a particular handset but relies entirely on data connections. Digits goes a step further because it can work with ordinary voice network calls as well, so may be better for people on limited data packages.

Breaking down the handset/number link works in several ways. The first is that customers can set things up so that a call to their number will ‘ring’ not just their main phone, but other devices such as tablets, computers and additional handsets (via an app) as well. That could be handy for people who often run out of battery on their main handset before finding a power source. It could also be handy for families, for example when providing a single contact number to schools or babysitters.

The system also covers text messaging, meaning it becomes possible to send an SMS message from any device and have it show up as if it came from your phone. It’s hardly revolutionary stuff, but might appeal to people who prefer to do everything from their computer without digging their phones out.

The reverse use of Digits is being able to run two phone lines on a single handset without having to rely on a data connection. One use would be having work and personal calls come to the same phone and – it appears – being able to mute one line without affecting the other. Another use would be having a second number to use when posting an ad on a site such as Gumtree and being able to switch it off when the item is sold without missing out on calls to your ‘real’ number.

The service isn’t completely free. Any existing T-Mobile lines will automatically support Digits. Creating an extra line to use on your handset will be $10 a month, though buyers on the ONE Plus handset will get one extra line free of charge.