T-Mobile DIGITS: Use Your US Phone Number Anywhere

Most of us travel and use our US carrier to roam while we are in another country or buy a local SIM.  There are benefits to both methods, so let’s take a look at the options.

Buy A Local SIM

If you buy a local SIM, you are essentially getting a local number in the country you are in.  Most of us don’t care about the local number; we value the high speed data package that comes with the local SIM.  This presents a small problem though; if you value making toll free calls to the US or receiving calls on your local number, you won’t be able to do that with a local SIM.  You also will not be able to send or receive any text messages from your local US number.

Use Your US Carrier To Roam In Another Country

If you use this method, for example with T-Mobile, depending on your plan, you can likely receive text messages for free on your US number. This can be useful for several reasons: phone calls generally cost a small amount and data is free.  The disadvantage to using this setup is the data is usually severely throttled by the foreign carrier and some people find it useless because it is so slow.

My Hybrid Method

On my last trip to Asia, I bought a local SIM which gave me a large amount of high speed data.  Of course, it provided a local number I can use for calling and texting friends in Asia, but that has limited use.  Using T-Mobile DIGITS, I was able to have my local US phone number on my phone even though I was using a local SIM.  Here’s how it works.

You simply download the DIGITS app on your Android or iPhone and log in with your T-Mobile credentials.  Now you have a phone dialer and messages screen within the app.  The app uses the high speed data you bought with your SIM package or WiFi, if you are in a hotel and use their network. Think of it as Skype, but for your US cell phone number.  All your calls and text messages are delivered to you through the DIGITS app, and if you want to make a call to someone in the US, you can just use the dialer in the app.  There are no roaming charges and now you essentially have two phones in one.  The obvious advantage to this setup is you also have high speed data while you are in a foreign country. This is not the way T-Mobile is advertising the DIGITS service, but it certainly works seamlessly for international travelers. Here is the promotional video for T-Mobile DIGITS:

Let me know if you have any questions. Safe travels!

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About The Flying Detective

The Flying Detective has traveled around the world since the 1990's and has visited many countries. TFD has been involved in travel hacking since 2015 and enjoys free or discounted air travel and hotels. He writes trip reports and other articles that may be of interest to fellow travel hackers.

10 thoughts on “T-Mobile DIGITS: Use Your US Phone Number Anywhere

  1. Naomi

    Two questions:

    1. When I’m at home, I just turn the line off, correct? And then turn it on when I’m abroad?

    2. Can I use it to call international numbers for free? Trying to figure out a way to call intl numbers without paying for Skype minutes, etc.

    This is a really nice option to get around the SIM card/phone number issue. I’ve previously used WhatsApp to work around that, but would be nice not to be constrained to people who have WhatsApp.

    Reply
    1. The Flying Detective Post author

      1. Yes when you are home since you have that number via your SIM you just don’t activate it on your phone, however, you can still have it running via the app on an iPad, computer, etc. That way you can make / receive calls and texts from any device.

      2. No, you will be billed LD rates just as if you called the international number while being in the USA.

      Reply
  2. Santastico

    Spending summer in the UK and just feel embarrassed to see how much I pay for cell phone service in the US. I got a “All-You-Can-Eat” pay-by-month plan with Three that basically gives me unlimited 4G data (including 30gb of hotspot), unlimited text, unlimited calls, no roaming fees (there is no more roaming in Europe) in over 60 countries where I can use my phone as I am in the UK for 32GBP/month . All I have to do is to load 32GBP in my account and it will renew every month as long as I have enough credit.

    Reply
    1. The Flying Detective Post author

      Yes, and if you used Digits, then you would just run the app on your phone using the Three data network and all your USA phone line calls & texts would be delivered to you on that data network.

      Reply
  3. mddcflyer

    Considering most plans on T-mobile already have low or free cost calls while roaming abroad (if you are on WiFi – calls are free if the phone can have WiFi calling, otherwise it is 20cent a minute), and free 2G internet access and texting, T-mobile seems to shape up to be the best carrier for international travelers.

    Reply
    1. The Flying Detective Post author

      Yes, that feature is nice. This just makes it even better if you can’t deal with 2G and want to get local high speed SIM service.

      Reply
  4. Daniel Lima Gadelha

    I use a similar service provided by FreedomPop and works fine if I have good internet conection.

    Reply
  5. Mike Miller

    Question, how do I know if my T-mobile iphone is locked? When I get to the foreign country and buy a sim card, will my phone be unlocked?

    Reply
  6. Pingback: What is T-Mobile DIGITS?, Hong Kong as a Beach Destination, Tips for Booking with Tour Operators - Rapid Travel Chai

  7. Miles

    Anyone considering T-Mo’s DIGITS might also want to check out Republic Wireless phones and Google Fi phones. In each case, the philosophy is to utilize existing wifi whenever possible.

    Reply

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