Following AT&T's lead, T-Mobile and Sprint plan to let customers use one phone number for multiple devices.
T-Mobile and Sprint, the No. 3 and No. 4 wireless carriers in the US, each confirmed Thursday they are working on features that will let customers use the phone number associated with their smartphones to receive phone calls and text messages on other connected devices, such as smartwatches and tablets.
AT&T was the first major carrier to announce it will offer this functionality. The carrier this week said its feature,, will launch in the holiday season.
Wireless carriers are adding this ability as more tablets, wearables and other gadgets are being equipped with their own cellular radios. This allows them to use a cellular network to make calls or connect to the Internet without being tethered to a smartphone. For consumers, the features will simplify the management of multiple devices on the same wireless account. As mobile penetration in the US approaches 100 percent, wireless carriers are banking on consumers adding additional devices to their monthly data plans in order to drive growth.
Customers with devices that have these features enabled will likely be able to leave their phones at home and still get calls and text messages on a smartwatch, tablet or connected car. Previously, consumers had to pair devices to their phone using Bluetooth, which typically has a range of 30 feet, if they wanted to use the same number. AT&T's NumberSync, for example, doesn't require your phone to be nearby or even turned on to get calls and text messages on a connected device.
Details of exactly how the features will work haven't been made public. T-Mobile hinted that its service will go beyond what AT&T has described.
The service T-Mobile is working on will make AT&T's offering "look small," said Mike Sievert, T-Mobile's chief operating officer, in an interview with news site Recode. A spokesman for the company declined to offer further details.
Sprint is "exploring offering a service that would allow a customer's smartphone, tablet and other devices to share a single phone number," the company said in a statement. Sprint added that it will "provide additional details at a later time."
Verizon, the nation's largest wireless provider, has not said whether it will offer a similar feature. Verizon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.