If you live in an area with patchy cellular coverage, or if you spend lots of time in a location that doesn’t get a strong mobile signal, then you’ve probably experienced the frustration of being unable to make or receive mobile calls, or of having a call drop halfway through. Fortunately, there may be a simple solution to your connection issues: Wi-Fi Calling. Read on to learn more about what Wi-Fi Calling is, some of its advantages and disadvantages, and how to use it on your smartphone.
What is Wi-Fi Calling?
While Wi-Fi Calling has been around for a number of years, it’s not exactly a familiar solution. According to a recent survey of 500 Americans conducted by the electronics company weBoost, 45% of people don’t know what Wi-Fi Calling is. Fortunately, the concept is simple enough to understand. A Wi-Fi call is a regular voice call made on a mobile phone. However, instead of using your carrier’s network connection, the call is routed via a wireless Internet network. In other words, with Wi-Fi Calling, as long as there is a Wi-Fi connection available—whether a private one in your home or office or a public hotspot in a café or library—you’ll be able to make and receive calls, even if there is no mobile signal.
How is Wi-Fi Calling different from apps like Skype or WhatsApp?
While the principles behind Wi-Fi Calling are the same as those used by apps such as Skype and WhatsApp, the difference is that Wi-Fi Calling is a built-in service that doesn’t require the use of a separate third-party app. From a user’s perspective, a Wi-Fi call is basically the same as a regular phone call: you simply dial the number you want to connect to, and your phone and carrier take care of the rest. On the other hand, services such as Skype require that you log into the app, and you can only reach in-app contacts who are also logged in.
What are the advantages of Wi-Fi Calling?
The following are some of the many advantages of Wi-Fi Calling:
Ability to make calls in areas with weak network coverage—As described above, the main benefit of Wi-Fi Calling is that it allows you to make and receive calls regardless of the mobile signal strength in your area.
Easy to use—To make a Wi-Fi call, you’ll just need to dial the number. There is no need to log into a third-party app or to launch separate services.
Use your existing number and contacts—Since Wi-Fi Calling is built into your phone and is not associated with a third-party app, you can use your phone number. Similarly, you can place calls to any of your existing contacts using Wi-Fi Calling. You don’t need to access separate contact lists in other apps.
No additional charges—Most network carriers treat Wi-Fi Calling the same as regular calling, so no additional rates or fees apply to Wi-Fi calls.
Help save battery life—In areas with poor cellular coverage, your phone has to work hard to try to find a signal, which can drain your battery surprisingly fast. When you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network, however, your phone can stop this constant search and your battery can take a breather.
What are the disadvantages of Wi-Fi Calling?
While Wi-Fi Calling is certainly an easy and convenient solution, there are a few drawbacks:
Not available with all phones or carriers—Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of Wi-Fi Calling is that it is not supported by all phones or carriers. Most new phone models have it. For example, the iPhone has included Wi-Fi Calling as a built-in feature since the launch of the iPhone 6 in 2014, but not all older phones do. Likewise, you’ll need to confirm that your carrier offers Wi-Fi Calling and to double-check whether the service is included as standard in your regular monthly plan.
Call quality depends on the bandwidth—In order to make a high-quality call with Wi-Fi Calling, there needs to be sufficient bandwidth. This means that the call quality may suffer if you are trying to use a Wi-Fi connection that is already heavily used. For example, a public network at a hotel or airport may already have many people connected to it, or the network at your office may already be in use for data-intensive activities such as video streaming.
How do I use Wi-Fi Calling?
If your phone and carrier support Wi-Fi Calling, it’s simple to begin using the feature. All you have to do is enable it, and your phone will take care of the rest. On Android phones, you can toggle Wi-Fi Calling to “On” in the Networks & Internet option of your Settings menu. On iPhones, the Wi-Fi Calling option can be found in the Cellular section of the Settings menu.