AT&T testing NumberSync technology on iPhones, other iOS gadgets

Soon AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) customers will be able to receive a call on their Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) Watch even if they don't have their iPhone nearby. The carrier is trialing its "NumberSync" technology in the latest beta version of iOS. The technology lets customers share their primary phone number with other connected devices even if their phone isn't connected to a cellular network.

"AT&T is testing NumberSync in the most recent iOS 9 beta," AT&T said in a statement to FierceWireless. "We plan to launch the service in the near future and will have more info soon."

The software update and its connection to NumberSync was first spotted by 9to5 Mac. Earlier this week Apple released the second beta version of iOS 9.2 to users running the iOS public beta. The new beta is available from the Software Update section of the Settings app on iOS devices running the existing public beta build, according to 9to5 Mac.

To get access to NumberSync, users running iOS 9.2 beta can open up the Setting app, then choose Phone, then Wi-Fi calling, and then click on the option to "Add Wi-Fi Calling For Other Devices." Once customers agree to the terms and conditions, Wi-Fi Calling will be enabled for other devices tied to the user's iCloud account.

As ZDNet notes, in its testing, 9to5 Mac put an iPhone in Airplane Mode without causing any disruption in phone service on the secondary devices. NumberSync operates in AT&T's network using IMS technology and call and text message resolution occurs within the network. That means that a customer's primary phone doesn't even need to be powered on or even connected to the network for it to work. If customers miss a call, they can manage all voicemails from a single inbox. The goal is to untether customers from their smartphones by having the same number linked to multiple devices, and the first compatible NumberSync devices will be available later this month, with more announced in time for the holidays.

Earlier this week AT&T said that starting tomorrow customers can order the Samsung Gear S2 and LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE, which are the first two smart watches that are scheduled to support NumberSync. The technology is scheduled to be available at no additional cost first on the Samsung Gear S2, and then the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition in early 2016.

Sprint (NYSE: S) last month said its iPhone customers will be able to get access to enhanced Wi-Fi calling features that will let them make and receive calls from multiple Apple devices with a single number. Thanks to the iOS 9.1 software update, Sprint's iPhone customers can take calls to their iPhone on an iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch or even their Mac.

T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) and Sprint both said they plan to offer a service that will let customers share their primary phone number with other connected devices, similar to NumberSync, just after AT&T unveiled the technology in October.

"At this time, Sprint is exploring offering a service that would allow a customer's smartphone, tablet and other devices to share a single phone number," Sprint said in a statement to FierceWireless last month. "Innovation is at the core of our business. We will provide additional details at a later time."

T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert did not offer any details on the service, but told Re/code that T-Mobile would go beyond what AT&T is promising for its initial offering. "What we are working on will make this version one offering from AT&T look small," Sievert said, taking a chance to tweak AT&T, as T-Mobile CEO John Legere often does. "Our strategy is to ask customers what they want and need, and then build it. AT&T's is to build or buy things, and then try to convince customers they asked for it."

For more:
- see this 9to5 Mac article
- see this ZDNet article

Related articles:
Sprint lets iPhone customers use a single number for Wi-Fi calling among Apple devices
T-Mobile and Sprint, like AT&T, to let customers share primary phone number with connected devices
AT&T to let customers link their smartphone number to wearables and other devices through 'NumberSync' service
AT&T's Lurie outlines new path for industry: Connecting everything
AT&T will focus on use cases to market connected cars, smart homes and digital lifestyle

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