Mobile Digits Finally Ready to Set Free Your Phone Number

After months of testing with tens of thousands of mobile guinea pigs, T-Mobile today announced a May 31 debut for Digits, a new technology that lets customers use the same phone number across a variety of internet-connected devices as well as add multiple numbers to one phone.

For many, it'll be the much-requested severing of the "one number, one SIM, one device" approach that has defined the cellphone age since digital phones first launched. But T-Mobile also had to make significant changes to the network to support the service, CTO Neville Ray said. Even so, it's still going to be fairly complex, if only because of the flexibility on offer.

Say good-bye to conventional phone numbers, each tied to a different device, and hello to a single line of access for your handheld (s), smartwatch, tablet and computer.

As a Gear S3 Frontier owner, I'm using my free Digits line from the beta test for Data with Paired Digits since I can receive and initiate calls and texts to and from my watch with recipients seeing my default T-Mobile number. T-Mobile also found that people who used the browser tended to send very long text messages, often preferring to text to people rather than send email. "We think the implications for how people use their devices are really significant".

New customers signing on to T-Mobile One Plus, the unlimited plan that launched in January, will get an extra Digits line at no additional charge for a limited time. So while other US carriers may roll out similar services in the coming months, T-Mobile's head start may be noteworthy.

There are a few limits, mind. Up to five numbers can be assigned to each device, and up to five devices can be linked with each number.

As far as pricing is concerned, all existing T-Mobile lines can use the service for free, and additional Digits lines can be added for $10 per month. Data on devices that share the same number will be capped to 512 kbps, mind. Here, the "extra number" use case matches what Google Voice users have been doing for years: a personal and business number, or a number to give to online sales sites like Craigslist, or an easily dumpable number for your Tinder dates. As the number of connected devices each of us carry has increased, the fact that we're still forced to go SIM-swapping to keep each of them connected is a hassle that things like eSIM were meant to have solved.

  • Arturo Norris