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AT&T NumberSync lets one phone number rule all your connected gadgets

AT&T NumberSync lets one phone number rule all your connected gadgets
Chris Velazco
Chris Velazco|@chrisvelazco|October 14, 2015 12:00 PM

We're encumbered with more connected silicon than ever before, and having to juggle multiple phone numbers for wearables and bigger screens, well, really sucks. To that end, AT&T just announced NumberSync, a free service that links all your other connected AT&T gizmos (think 3G smartwatches or tablets) to your main phone number. Better yet, incoming calls and text messages will get routed to all those devices at once -- none of this hokey call-forwarding nonsense.

When you add a NumberSync-enabled device to one of AT&T's Mobile Share plan buckets, you'll get the option to turn on NumberSync totally free of charge. AT&T SVP Jeff Bradley says the feature will launch later this month with one supported device from a hush-hush phone maker (our money's on Samsung), with a few more to follow by the time the holidays roll around. Ultimately, the carrier would like to see its full line of connected devices play nice with NumberSync's sharing tendencies, but that's a little easier said than done. And for folks like me, who have no less than five phone numbers running at the same time because of review phones, NumberSync doesn't really help. It's all about those other, non-phone connected gadgets AT&T wants to sell you. What AT&T's basically doing here is taking advantage of the network upgrades it developed while rolling out Voice Over LTE to kill a growing consumer headache and give their hardware partners a better shot at selling stuff at the same time. Clever clever.

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Not now

But why the slow rollout, especially if most of the heavy lifting is handled on AT&T's end? Can't they just flip the switch for everyone at once? I asked Bradley what the deal was, and it's because NumberSync isn't a completely one-sided affair -- phone makers have to modify software like the dialer and messaging apps to play nice with AT&T's network modifications. Thankfully, most of this technical legwork should be invisible to you and me -- enabling NumberSync on a secondary device like a tablet would require one final new step at the end of the normal setup process.

"The good part," Bradley pointed out, "is they get better [at integration] once they get the first one under their belt."

One of the few good things about the way our domestic wireless carriers work is that they're totally fine stealing good ideas -- it might give the originator ammunition to fire back, but whatever. In the end, it means benefits eventually flow to all consumers instead of just one subset of customers, and AT&T isn't the only carrier that's working on a network infrastructure that makes NumberSync possible. AT&T might have the head start on this, but seriously, the rest of you carriers had better get cracking too.

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AT&T NumberSync lets one phone number rule all your connected gadgets