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Analyst Angle: Three reasons T-Mobile’s new Digits will change the way we use mobile in our lives

Mobile calling is in dire need of a platform that brings it into the 21st century – HD voice is great, but it’s not a major driver of behavioral change. Identity & number management is certainly a good area to push into, and T-Mobile has jumped into it with a network-based solution that has some game-changing potential:

  1. By moving the identity from the device to the person, we will start to use multiple devices more tailored to different activities, needs and moments in our personal life – think rugged phone for the beach, smartwatch for running, stylish small phones for nights out, Alexa as home phone? For the device ecosystem this has exciting implications for moving away from the standard common format of today’s smartphones. For the user, it means you remain you, all your devices are ready to pick up and go and potentially they don’t need to be from same device company, or even the same carrier.
  2. Identity and ease of use: I can hand out a temporary number for occasions where I don’t want to use my primary number (think online dating, Craigslist, etc), and I can easily manage and use my work and personal identities (or in essence create multiple personas)
  3. Enterprise: The potential for Digits in enterprise is perhaps the most compelling opportunity to shift processes of how we use wireless today. The business can provide each employee with a Digit to put on all their devices (personal phone, PC, tablet) and the business retains the contacts, message history and relationships associated with that number if the employee leaves. And they can set up group lines, so that the whole sales team gets calls on a sales number that they can put on all their devices. The Digits beta focused on consumers, and while T-Mobile is not yet unveiling and details on the enterprise side it has plans down the road to introduce controls for enterprise. We expect that these will address how companies manage across all devices, including split billing between personal and work uses.

Like moving from home phone to mobile phone meant you no longer call a location, you call a mobile device; now we move from calling a device to calling a person – no matter what device they are on.

The potential roadmap implications here are exciting too – it will be interesting to see if T-Mobile taps into these areas (so far the focus in revealing DIGITS has been on near term use cases):

  • IoT – as smart personal devices begin to proliferate in the home and outside, and many will likely use artificial intelligence with natural language integration, you could tell them which Digit to use (based on your own nicknames for them) to contact someone using text/RCS services/voice – any smart device could obtain phone functions. Group numbering for reaching multiple IoT devices in vertical solutions also could have interesting use case potential.
  • eSIM – by associating with the users identity, not the device, this solution is eSIM ready and gives the carrier (or in this case, Un-carrier) a strong foothold in the ecosystem that eSIM enabled device OEMs are less likely to snatch away

Digits is an innovation that moves us even further into our reality of connected lifestyles, shedding the ties from the dial-up phone days to be more future ready as we use more and more connected devices for communications. Communications should be easy to use and embedded in our lives, not tied to a specific device.

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