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The two polls above discuss whether or not the children have their own cell phone plans, who pays, for how long and when do the payments and/or plan privileges stop. Please tell us what you do with your children and their cell phones. Please check all boxes that apply, since we typically do not do the same thing with every child. ETA: Modified the poll to accommodate Quill.
Some background: Our family does not do much in the way of social media and our children typically do not get cell phones until they are about 16 years old. We also do not have a land line, so we typically have given a cell phone to the oldest child at home until they go off to college. This *extra* cell phone is connected to a bluetooth device which rings all the phones in the house when it rings. This allows us to get in touch with the children while we are out. Then, as the children grow up and leave, we lather, rinse, repeat. Now we have a situation where DS17, DD15 and DD15 will all be going off to college within a one-year span. DS17 already has a cell phone which he got before DS19 left for college. He used that cell phone last year when he was away on a trip and will use it again this coming year. But this year, DD15 and DS15 will also be going on the same trip with DS17, but none of them will be together. What to do? Options: - Do nothing. We never had cell phones when we were kids. What's the big deal? - Get two more cell phones and cellular plans, one for each of the twins. With our plan, that would cost nearly an additional $600/year, including all taxes and fees. - Get a track phone for each of the twins. That would probably be a cheaper option than the above. - A new option, discussed below. A new option: In January, I was a beta tester for a new feature that T-Mobile now offers called DIGITS. The feature I wanted, and that I tested, was the ability to duplicate my cell phone number onto my iPad. I have always hated texting from my cell phone and I love the ability to make and receive all of my texts on my iPad instead. (I understand that iPad owners who also have iPhones have been able to do this for a long time.) But there is another feature of DIGITS that T-Mobile offered after the beta period completed at the end of May which is the subject of this email: You can get new phone numbers WITHOUT getting an additional phone line. Currently T-Mobile charges US$10.00/month (plus taxes and fees UNLESS you have one of their ALL-IN-ONE plans) for each new DIGITS line you add. Here's where it gets interesting: Just like I am able to duplicate my cell phone onto my iPad using DIGITS, each DIGITS line can be shared among up to five devices! So, here's what we did: We added a single DIGITS line to our cellular plan. This line does not get cellular coverage, but it DOES have a new telephone number associated with it. I added the DIGITS app to each of DD15's, DS15's, and DS13's iPads. Now when we call this number, it rings all three of their iPads and they can talk directly on that device. They can also make and receive texts from DIGITS. Sounds interesting! But what are the issues with this approach? This approach is certainly a compromise. Here are some of the issues and how we are addressing them: - There is NO CELLULAR COVERAGE with this plan. The children can ONLY use their new "phones" when they are connected to WiFi. This is not a problem when they are at home, since they *usually* have internet access here. So this approach can fulfill one of the main purposes of the added line: it allows us to call home when all of the cell phones are out-and-about. But what about when they are traveling? They will need to get onto a WiFi hotspot. I don't think this will be a big issue for their planned trip next year, as they should be able to hop onto their hosts' cell phones' hotspots while they are there. (FWIW, we now use WiFi calling on our own cell phones when visiting friends in coverage holes so that we can still make/receive calls in their homes.) But still, this limits this approach for some uses. - But you don't know who will pick up the phone when you call that telephone number. That's right! That's why I referred to this as a "party line" in the title of this post. That's not a problem for Mom & Dad. Others will have to get used to having someone else possibly answer that line. - But what if someone calls for one of the children and DOESN'T know this is a party line. Couldn't that lead to some rather embarrassing voice messages? Yes, it could. But the kids got together and crafted a clever outgoing message for voicemail that includes all three of their voices warning the caller that their message will be heard by all parties. It's pretty cute! - But text message are not private. Yep. IMO, that's a good thing! - When you receive a text from that number, you won't know WHO is texting you. That's also true! We have developed a simple system to resolve that issue. When they write a text message, they preface it with their first initial. For instance, a message from "Bob" would be "B: TTYL". - But now those three children will not be able to text among themselves. Actually, they can, since all text messages from DIGITS are duplicated on all of the devices. But it's not perfect, since the text messages all show up on the same (right) side of the screen in the same color. But that's also not private, as mentioned above. If they want to text each other privately, they can do that directly on their iPads using iMessage. - Calling on an iPad? That's pretty strange! Yeah, it's a bit awkward, and certainly it is not ideal. Also, when they go on a trip, they will not be able to fit their iPads into their pockets. To fix this problem, I just purchased a couple of used Android cell phones on eBay to run DIGITS. I spent about $45 each. (Unfortunately, the old Android phones I have kicking aound do not support the DIGITS app.) One of these can sit next to the bluetooth device which will ring the house phones when we call then new DIGITS number. When they go out of the house, two of them can each grab a cell phone and travel with it. - Finally, this sounds a bit complicated. Yeah, it is. It's interesting trying to explain this to the grandparents. But there ARE benefits, too! Nobody would accept drawbacks if there were not also benefits. Here are the main ones: - It's a dirt cheap solution! In our case, it's even cheaper than I said since T-Mobile provided us with a free DIGITS line for life for participating in the beta test. We only have to pay the taxes and surcharges on that line, which is about $3.50/month. As such, we save about $550/year over the fully cellular approach. - Did I mention that this line is NOT PRIVATE to any of our children? At this age, I consider that a benefit, not a drawback. These three children will not be using this line to have private communications with anyone (except when they call out using the telephone feature). - Now MomsintheGarden and I have a way to send text messages to EVERYONE in the family! (I know, this is no problem for families with ALL iPads and iPhones using iMessage, but it's a real issue when you mix iOS and Android devices.) Are there other things about DIGITS that are interesting? Yes. - I haven't mentioned one of the primary features of DIGITS: If you install this on you phone, your phone can now make and receive calls to MULTIPLE PHONE NUMBERS. This is true even if the phone itself is on a different carrier than T-Mobile. This might be a big deal to many people who now carry two different telephones, one for work and one for personal calls. I think T-Mobile will be marketing this capability heavily to corporations. Instead of having to purchase a physical cell phone and service for each employee (many of whom do not want another phone), they can purchase a bunch of DIGITS lines and the employees can simply install the app onto their existing phone. IMO, that's better for both the employer and the employee. - Note that T-Mobile is having manufacturers build DIGITS into the latest cell phones so that you do not have to have a separate app to use it. It's just built-in. That should be welcome for those who use the service for multiple phone lines on one phone. - BTW, I think Google now offers something similar called "Fi", but I'll leave it up to others to detail how that works. Anyway, that's what we are doing to save some money with our youngest three while still giving them some connectivity. Perhaps this idea is workable for someone else out there. If you have any questions about the service, I'm happy to try to answer them in this thread. Otherwise, you might want to check out T-Mobile's DIGITS webpage.