Phone numbers are an archaic technological relic. Because numbers are locked to a single device, office workers have to carry multiple phones for business and personal needs. Regular folk can be stranded without service, even when surrounded by smart devices. But T-Mobile’s new Digits service will let you make and receive calls and text messages from almost any internet-connected device.
Essentially, Digits unties your phone number from a single phone and instead lets you log in to your number using almost any device running iOS, Android, Windows or macOS. Digits is already built into some recent phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S7.
If you don’t own one of those, there are apps you can use that let Digits users sign into their phone number on handsets from other carriers, including Verizon and AT&T.
Digits will also save all your contacts, text history and voicemails, so even when you switch devices, you won't miss a thing. You can even turn individual lines on and off when you want, a nice feature for people who don't want to take business calls at night or on the weekend.
The one caveat to all this is that the phone number must originally come from T-Mobile, since Digits runs on the company’s proprietary IMS core (IP Multimedia Subsystem). While you can use Digits to make calls from your own T-Mobile number on a Verizon or AT&T phone, you won’t be able to make calls using a number from another carrier.
Digits may be a boon for business. Not only will companies be able to avoid buying redundant devices, but they will also have greater control over individual numbers and the data and contacts tied to those accounts.
Unlike other over-the-top calling services such as Google Voice or Skype, Digits features full support for emergency services, and calls using Digits receive network priority versus other 3G or 4G traffic, even on phones from other networks.
Digits also differs from AT&T's NumberSync service in that Digits features support for both device and app-based number porting, versus NumberSync, which requires devices to have the software programmed directly into the device.
Interested T-Mobile users can try out the Digits beta today for free, or wait for Digits' full commercial release in early 2017. T-Mobile has not said how much Digits will cost.
One thing to note, though: As of now, Apple's iMessage isn't fully compatible with Digits. T-Mobile recommends that iOS users who want to participate in the beta turn off iMessage and use T-Mobile's texting app instead.