FOX11, Los Angeles - According to a report by the Pew Research Center, many consumers have multiple mobile devices in the home, and consumer electronics manufacturers know that. Service providers do as well. That's why we've seen Apple create services which allow you to get calls, texts and more across your OSX and iOS devices. Windows and Samsung Android devices as well. Maybe some of you have used a popular service called PushBullet, or even the venerable Google Voice, but quite often there's a compromise to get that level of connectivity. The service only works on certain devices, or certain features only work on certain devices. Not anymore, now that T-Mobile has introduced its new DIGITS service. It's new, just out of a 12-month Beta, but is it worth trying out if you're a business person, or someone who wants to be able to send and receive calls and text messages from whatever device you're on? Let's take a look!
Basically, DIGITS is a voice and messaging service which has a web interface (shown above), an iOS, and an Android app available to users. No need for that app if you're on an approved Samsung Galaxy device like the S7. It runs natively there, more on that in a bit. Because it works through T-Mobile's service and not via any specific app developer or vendor, your experience should be consistent across your devices and that's important. It means that you're going to get all of the features and the full benefit of the service no matter the OS, or even the carrier. It even works through the web browser on your desktop computers though I've experienced connectivity issues behind FOX's corporate firewall in my testing.
What it isn't is a file sharing service. You won't be able to transfer files between mobile devices, except by text messaging them to your own number. There's also the greatest drawback, it isn't available to you if you're on another carrier. That said, if you have devices on different carriers, maybe a personal and a work device, you can still download the app on all those devices and have everything ring everywhere as long as at least one of those devices is a T-mobile account that you have admin access to.
So, what do you do? It's pretty straight forward. After hitting T-Mobile's DIGITS web portal and signing up for the service, you'll either head to your Samsung device, or download the app and activate the number, or numbers, you want to use with the service. Let's take a look at what that is going to look like on a Samsung device first. After activating on the web, you'll head to the settings menu on your Galaxy device, and jump into the Cloud And Account menu. From there, you'll tap the Multi-line settings option and should see your primary line listed, as well as the "Other Lines" available to be activated on the DIGITS service. The great thing is that since the service is supported natively, you can manage and even add more numbers right from there. You don't want to download the DIGITS app on this device because DIGITS works natively and you'd just be doubling up the notifications you receive.
What's so cool about how this is handled natively on Galaxy devices is that when you go into the stock dialer, you'll be greeted with an icon which shows which phone number you're about to initiate your call from. To switch numbers, you simply tap the icon and choose the "identity" you're calling from. This is a much more frictionless implementation than how it works using a competing product like Google Voice. Being a tech reviewer, it was always annoying to me that the dialer, when you allowed GV to have control, had to ask you every time which number you were going to call from if you didn't want GV to be the only dialer. First world problems, I know, but the user experience here is just more satisfying. And in typical Samsung UI fashion, you can customize the icon and icon color for each line in the DIGITS account.
The app is available for iOS and Android as well. What's unique about this is that since the service and app are through your cell phone carrier, you don't have to worry about it being proprietary technology from a specific manufacturer. Unlike Apple Handoff or Samsung's SideSync, this isn't handset specific. For people like me who rock Android phones and iOS tablets this is particularly handy.
The DIGITS app is a tabbed affair which shows you Calls, Messages, Contacts and Settings on the bottom of the screen, and tabs up top which are context specific. The Calls tab has a dialer in the middle of the screen, but you can tp on Recent and Missed calls with a Voicemail tab on the end. The Voicemail tab is a visual voicemail user interface which will show you the name of the caller if they're in your contact list, and/or the phone number of the caller. From here you can also see voicemails for every line you have activated in the DIGITS app on that device through a dropdown. The Messages tab is where you'll find all of your text messages. You can send and receive messages from here, as well as attach images, documents and videos to those text messages. It also supports voice dictation. Not much to see in the Settings menu. You can turn on lines connected to the DIGITS account, assign an icon to the accounts, and a color.
With people rocking multiple devices and many smartwatch and IoT products coming to market, DIGITS just makes sense. For this test I also rocked a Samsung Gear Frontier 3 smartwatch. I wanted to see how reliable the service was, ringing to all of my devices. Being that the Frontier has its own SIM card, and thus its own number, this was a no-brainer. I just add the number associated with the watch to the DIGITS account and it becomes just another device to ring. Now, it should be noted that the Frontier, when used with Samsung's Gear Manager app on your device, has a function which automatically turns on call forwarding when it senses that its disconnected from the watch so a DIGITS service isn't really necessary from that standpoint. What makes this a great feature though is that it is not connected to any software and makes the watch truly standalone. Someone calls my primary number and it rings to all of my devices which have the app on them but it also rings to the watch, which doesn't have the app. Calling the watch multiple times to check the service, it was spot on every time.
If this is successful, I can see other carriers following suit. It just makes sense with the proliferation of devices in households. And after a couple months of use, beta testing the service before its public release, I feel like it is definitely worth paying for if you're someone using multiple devices. For business users, I think this is a no-brainer and if your carrier doesn't have a service like this, I'd call them up and tell them that one of their competitors does and that they need to seriously look into releasing something similar.
The service launches today, and according to a press release, all T-Mobile numbers will automatically be upgraded to DIGITS, allowing customers to access their numbers across multiple devices for free. If you want an additional set of DIGITS though, that will cost you $10 a month. Also, for a limited time, customers with T-Mobile One Plus with taxes and fees included comes with an extra DIGITS line--at no extra cost.
Disclosure: T-Mobile provided me devices to beta test this service prior to its public launch.