There’s a proliferation of ways we can be contacted these days: most people have at least one email address (if not several), a mobile phone number, a home number, and accounts on multiple social media platforms. While that makes it incredibly easy for people to find a way to get in touch with us, it means that all of us now bear the burden of monitoring multiple different sources through the day, to make sure we’re not ignoring something important. And let’s face it…it’s tiring switching back and forth between platforms throughout the day.
The launch of Rogers’ One Number (http://rogersonenumber.ca) today is predicated on an assumption that’s almost certainly warranted: where in the past, people used to have an office number that served as their primary point of contact, that function is now largely served by their mobile phone. The service starts with your mobile phone number (Rogers phones only, naturally), then ties it to your computer with a Windows or Mac-based app. Bundle in email addresses, and you can then use One Number on your desktop computer to aggregate your contacts, email and text messages in one interface. Drop an app onto your mobile device – it’s available for Android, iPhone and Blackberry – and your contact list will be synced to your desktop via the cloud.
The service also includes Voice over IP function (both audio and video), which means you can call people in your contact list from your computer, then transfer the call to your mobile when you have to head out of the office. The catch: there are separate rate plans for your cell phone and for long-distance calls over One Number’s IP-based calling service, which means juggling two different plans. According to Tess Van Thielen (Director of Wireless Project Management), it currently makes more sense to keep these two rates separate; some users will use far more of their mobile allotment and some will spend far more on IP-based long-distance, rendering pre-baked bundles non-optimal for many.
The service also has a few add-ons that give users more control over how people can (or can’t) reach them via their mobile number. People can use the One Number interface to set a time-based “do not disturb” period, to automatically forward to a different number, or to block certain numbers altogether (including an option for bulk blocking all unidentified numbers). You also have the option of associating a small handful of external phone numbers to your mobile number, and when you receive an incoming call, it can be configured to ring your numbers one after the other, or all of them simultaneously, until you pick up at one of them.
While John Boynton, Rogers Communications’ Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, believes that this is the first time a carrier in North America has made this type of service available, most of these features are nothing new in and of themselves. A savvy user could set up Skype for IP calling using their computer, and various clients make it possible to aggregate multiple incoming emails. A service like Apple’s iCloud allows you to wirelessly sync your contacts between your iPhone and your desktop. And in the United States, Google Voice has made it possible for callers to find you using a single number, no matter which device you may actually be at.
On the other hand, there’s a certain amount of technical know-how necessary to juggle these various services (and their respective billings), and some aren’t available in Canada. Plus, the ability to transfer your calls seamlessly between desktop and cellphone is a nice touch.
The upside is that the basic One Number service and the smartphone apps for One Number are both free, though extra charges apply for international calls made through the service. The downside is that One Number is specific to Rogers—even Fido users are currently left out of the loop despite the corporate connection to the Rogers mothership. And while One Number is currently designed to allow you move seamlessly between your smartphone and your desktop, there’s minimal functionality on tablet right now. (According to Van Thielen, there’s a whole group of people currently working at bringing the full One Number experience to tablet users, but there’s currently no launch date announced for this. Stay tuned.)
For people who spend a lot of time tethered to a workstation (and who already have a Rogers mobile number) this could be a quick and easy way to pare back on the number of identities you have to manage through the day. It could also be a more unified control panel for Rogers users who don’t want to be bothered setting up multiple services manually and navigating back and forth between them throughout the day.