Android iPhone and iPad Technology Explained

What Is Wi-Fi Calling and How Does It Work?

Bryan Wolfe 21-07-2017

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 How to Fix a Slow or Unstable Wi-Fi Connection Why does your internet suck? Here's how to fix an unstable internet connection by changing the settings on your Wi-Fi router. Read More .


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.

wifi calling

Your first experience with Wi-Fi Calling might have come from a third-party provider, such as Skype, WhatsApp, or Google Hangouts Google Splits Hangouts Into 'Chat' and 'Meet' Google is splitting Hangouts into two separate apps, Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet. No one seems to know why, but it's happening nonetheless. Read More . 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 Never Buy a Phone From Your Carrier! Buy Unlocked Phones and Save Hundreds Unlocked phones can cost a fortune, but the savings more than make up for it. You can save thousands by not signing a contract. We've got six phones that come contract free! Read More 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 Wi-Fi Extenders vs. Powerline Adapters: How to Fix Poor Wireless Signals If your router's Wi-Fi signals are weak and unreliable and you can't seem to find a solution, the answer may lie in Wi-Fi extenders and/or powerline adapters. Read More , 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.


at&t wi-fi calling

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 Protect Your iCloud Account With These 4 Easy Steps Have you taken steps to make sure that no one gets access to your iCloud information? Here's what you need to do to make sure your iCloud account is as secure as possible. Read More . 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 How to Secure Your Wi-Fi and Stop Neighbors Stealing It If your Wi-Fi SSID is being broadcast to the surrounding houses, there is a chance your internet is being stolen. Find out how to stop this from happening and keep control of your bandwidth. Read More , 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

Related topics: Android, iOS, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Hotspot.

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  1. patteringby
    October 14, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    The title of this article is misleading. At no point does the article tell us how WiFi calling works. It just tells us what it is, which carriers support it, and how to make use of it.

    There's not a whiff of a system architecture diagram or even a high-level description of the protocols involved, nor any detail whatsoever about which components in the phone are involved in WiFi calling and what their roles are. That's the kind of information I expect to find in a "how [noun] works" article.

    It's like writing an article titled "How electric light works" that just says "You flick the switch and, hey presto, it lights up the room. Be sure to pay the electricity bill, or you might find yourself sitting in darkness!" when, by rights, with a "how [noun] works" title, it should be telling us about the magic pixies dancing in the wires, and how it is that they mutate into brilliant light on our command. (For instance, how long does it take the queen pixie's scream of terror to propagate from the light switch to the bulb?)

    Yours in frustration,
    A disgruntled netizen shouting into the void.

  2. dan
    July 30, 2017 at 6:00 am

    I have an old cell phone without a carrier (ie, no SIM card). Can I use these techniques to make WiFi calls - if so, which is the best app to use?

  3. Steven Ochs
    July 22, 2017 at 12:42 am

    The holy grail with smartphone based Wi-Fi calling is to be able to utilize any Wi-Fi enabled smartphone to make Wi-Fi calls WITHOUT ANY cellular plan. Much talk exists on the net about how to do it but in practice it's not easy to do. Please research and write an article about how to do it. And remember, apps like WhatsApp require an active cell account. And try to do it with Google Talk. You still need a land line number. Showing users how to enable Wi-Fi calling with an existing cellular account certainly helps those experiencing poor cell reception situations. But again, a seamless, no cellular contract smartphone used to call other smartphones, and landlines is what would would be truly beneficial to the general populace. Of course the carriers wouldn't be able to monetize the calls and would be adamantly opposed to it.

    • Carman Stark
      July 22, 2017 at 10:10 am

      Check out Republic Wireless ... I lived overseas for 2+ years and had WiFi only plan ... I could call and receive calls to and from any phone in US and Canada ... While in US my Republic Wireless phone automatically switch es back and forth from WiFi and cellular ..
      It is a WiFi first phone and only goes to cellular when without a WiFi connection

      • Hrothgar
        July 25, 2017 at 10:57 am

        Republic Wireless is the way to go for WiFi calling at an affordable price. I pay $20/mo. for unlimited calling and texting over cell and WiFi (including roaming) with 1GB cell data (no roaming data).