Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.
Billions of dollars have been spent by the mobile phone industry in recent years to improve network coverage. Despite this, there are still areas of the United States where coverage is spotty, at best. Luckily, most carriers now offer Wi-Fi Calling, which gives you the ability to call or message from almost anywhere there’s a Wi-Fi connection.
In this article, you’ll learn more about Wi-Fi Calling and the carriers and smartphones that support it. You’ll also learn how to activate and use the feature.
What Is Wi-Fi Calling?
The first thing to know about Wi-Fi Calling is that it doesn’t require any special log-in or application. Better still, it’s a free service now being offered by many U.S. carriers when placing calls or text to numbers in the U.S., U.S. Virgin Islands, or Puerto Rico. International rates still apply for international numbers, however.
Your first experience with Wi-Fi Calling might have come from a third-party provider, such as Skype, WhatsApp, or Google Hangouts. The relatively recent introduction of carrier-based Wi-Fi Calling has coincided with the growing popularity of Wi-Fi hotspots.
It has also been driven by increased competition and the desire of carriers not to be left behind.
Advantages of Using Wi-Fi Calling Through Your Carrier
There are some distinct advantages of using Wi-Fi Calling from your carrier as opposed to a third-party provider. For one, you can use your phone’s dial pad and contacts list just as you would when making a cellular call, saving you time and confusion.
Plus, there’s a seamless transition between cellular and Wi-Fi Calling. When your phone loses its signal, the device automatically switches, requiring no additional input.
When to Use It
The most obvious time to use Wi-Fi Calling is when you’re in a cellular dead zone. It’s also useful in locations with weak coverage, such as a building with poor cellular coverage.
For example, one of my nearest Starbucks has terrific Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, the building it’s in has poor cellular coverage. I can still make a call from there, thanks to Wi-Fi Calling.
Carrier and Device Support
In the U.S., the top four carriers (AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon) all support Wi-Fi Calling, as do many others, including Metro PCS, Simple Mobile, and Vodafone US. Among the U.S. carriers that don’t yet support the feature are Cricket, Straight Talk, and Virgin Mobile USA.
Tip: That new smartphone you’ve been eyeing almost certainly supports Wi-Fi Calling. Just make sure your carrier does too. Most current-generation Android-based devices now support Wi-Fi Calling, as does the Apple iPhone 5c or later.
Is It Really Free?
As mentioned above, there are no additional charges for using Wi-Fi Calling when placing calls and text domestically. There’s some fine print to keep in mind, however.
- Making a domestic 911 call with Wi-Fi Calling is supported. However, when traveling abroad, it might not be, depending on the country you’re visiting.
- On a phone plan with limited minutes? Yes, these calls count towards this limit, even though you’re using Wi-Fi, not cellular.
- Wi-Fi Calling doesn’t support TTY devices.
- Remember, International calls come with a charge. Check with your carrier for rates.
- Premium rates still apply. For example, calls placed to 411.
Enabling Wi-Fi Calling
To turn on Wi-Fi Calling on your iOS device, head to Settings > Phone > Wi-Fi Calling. On this screen, toggle “Wi-Fi Calling on This iPhone” to the “on” position. On iOS devices, Wi-Fi Calling is turned off by default.
On this same screen, you may be asked to review or update your emergency address for 911 purposes. Add your address so responders can find you in the case of an emergency.
Setting up Wi-Fi Calling on Android-based devices differs slightly depending on the carrier, Android version, and phone you’re using. In most cases, you’ll find Wi-Fi Calling in your phone’s wireless and networking setting under the More or More Networks option.
Once you locate the setting for Wi-Fi Calling on your Android device, be sure to enable it. Contact your vendor for more information.
Am I Using It?
Once you’ve enabled Wi-Fi Calling, your phone will determine the best times to use it, based on the condition of the cellular service in your area.
The top four U.S. carriers use the following signs on your phone to alert you when calls go through Wi-Fi:
- For iPhone: The words “AT&T Wi-Fi” will appear next to the Wi-Fi icon in the status bar.
- For Android: You’ll see a plus (+) sign next to the Wi-Fi icon in the status bar.
- For iPhone: “T-Mobile Wi-Fi” will appear on the status bar.
- For Android: Look for the Wi-Fi Calling icon at the top of your phone’s screen.
- For iPhone: You’ll see “Sprint Wi-Fi” on the status bar.
- For Android: Wi-Fi Calling offers different indicators to show that it’s working. See the phone’s notification bar for the Wi-Fi calling icon when connected.
- For iPhone: The words “VZW Wi-Fi” appear in your status bar.
- For Android: You’ll see a Wi-Fi Calling icon appear at the top of your device.
Are you using another carrier? Check with your provider for more information.
What About Tablets?
If your carrier supports Wi-Fi Calling on iCloud-connected devices, you can make and receive Wi-Fi calls on other devices too, including iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.
After enabling Wi-Fi Calling on your iPhone 5c or later, head to Settings > Phone > Calls on Other Devices. Toggle “Allow Calls on Other Devices” to the “on” position.
Under the “Allow Calls On” section on this same screen, you’ll see your iCloud-connected devices. Please be sure to toggle these to the “on” position.
You may see a message about Wi-Fi Calling show up on your iCloud-connected devices. Follow the directions to activate.
Wrapping It Up
Thanks to the introduction of Wi-Fi Calling, spotty cellular networks are no longer a concern. As long as you have access to a Wi-Fi network, you’re ready to go.
Just be sure your carrier and phone support the feature. If they do, be sure to enable the feature when setting up your phone.
What’s your experience with Wi-Fi Calling? Do you have any tips for our readers? Let us know in the comments below.
Image Credit: 24Novembers via Shutterstock.com