August 2, 2016
We’ve all experienced the modern-age problem of avoiding one area in our home or workplace where we don’t get service.
In practice, WiFi calling is virtually the same as making a regular call from your cell phone. Many users probably haven’t even noticed that, since 2015 when major U.S. carriers AT&T and Verizon announced plans to roll out WiFi calling (see AT&T and Verizon Will Offer WiFi Calling in 2015), WiFi calling has become an essential part of augmenting existing wireless services.
When making voice calls, users’ phones can utilize a nearby WiFi network instead of using their carrier’s network connection. This can bypass the issue of weak carrier coverage in certain areas where users may be unable to get an adequate signal.
This technology has already been in place for some time, for those familiar with messaging services like iMessage and Facebook Messenger. Gone are the days of losing cell service in a dead-zone of some basement or building; as long as a WiFi connection is available, users are good to go.
Now when it comes to carrier-branded Wi-Fi calling, devices have this service as a built-in feature, meaning that users can utilize WiFi calling simply by setting it as the default connection preference. In other words, you can set up your phone to make calls over WiFi every time, or to avoid dropped calls by automatically switching to Wi-Fi calling in case you lose your phone signal.
Though many devices have built-in WiFi calling ability, WiFi calling isn’t automatically enabled on smartphones. To turn yours on, go to Settings. On iPhones go to Settings > Phone and then toggle on WiFi calling. On Android, you’ll generally find WiFi settings under Settings > Networks > Call, where you can then toggle on WiFi calling.
Once you activate WiFi calling, you dial or text as usual, while the routing of your call or text is handled automatically in the background.*
Experts say that WiFi calling is definitely something to consider for frequent overseas travelers because there’s typically no roaming or international charge for making calls or sending texts back to the U.S. (however, it’s important to note that WiFi calling isn’t supported in some countries, including Australia and China). In addition, it can make a big difference for users with limited calling minutes or consistently poor cell signal issues.
Sprint Wi-Fi calling is available on most recent Android devices and iPhones, starting with the iPhone 5C, 5S, 6 and 6 Plus and 6s and 6s Plus with iOS software v8.3 and higher. Check your phone’s settings menu to see if it’s supported.
T-Mobile offers 38 different phones with Wi-Fi calling, including recent iPhone models, the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S7, the LG G5 and HTC 10.
AT&T has rolled out Wi-Fi Calling to 6, 6 Plus, 6s and 6s Plus with iOS software v9.0 and higher and is starting to roll out to Android devices, beginning with the LG G4.
Verizon Wireless has rolled out Wi-Fi calling to 14 devices including the iPhone 6, 6s and 6s Plus, Samsung Galaxy S6 and S7, HTC 10, LG G4 and G5.
Considering that free public WiFi hotspots are popping up everywhere, WiFi calling will become easier and easier to utilize.
However, experts specify† that we’re not quite ready to switch exclusively to WiFi calling.
For now, the technology behind WiFi calling still requires a relatively strong and fast WiFi signal; furthermore, the quality of a WiFi signal can weaken if lots of people are trying to connect to the same WiFi network. Hopefully these issues will eventually be eliminated as the technology improves, especially considering WiFi calling’s big splash in the wireless world thus far.