As the name implies, Wi-Fi Calling relies on a Wi-Fi connection, which allows carriers to essentially provide more service at a low cost, if only because they don’t have to spend a lot to offer the feature. It’s ideal for cheap overseas calls, avoiding dead zones, and staying in touch. You might think you’ve never heard of it, but chances are you have.
1. The Wi-Fi Connection
Even though everyone with a smartphone or tablet has probably used Wi-Fi Calling before, few are aware of how it works. Have you ever made a call using Skype, Facebook Messenger, or Snapchat? Then you know what a call over Wi-Fi is like. Rather than using the network of your particular carrier, you can place a Wi-Fi call as long as you’re connected to Wi-Fi. That might mean using the network in your home or hooking up to a hotspot as you explore a new city.
In much the same way you can use specific apps to send text messages regardless of where you are, a Wi-Fi connection is more than sufficient for making a call. It’s similar to the VOIP calls you can make over Skype. VOIP stands for “voice over Internet Protocol,” and it has helped many businesses in reducing phone bill cost , but it’s a sort of generic version of Wi-Fi calling, which is attached to your carrier. You don’t need to pull up an app as long as it’s enabled on your phone.
2. You Can Turn It On Yourself
The best news is that you don’t have to purchase an extra plan or do anything special to take advantage of Wi-Fi calling. Most Android devices and all Apple devices from iPhone 5C upward have Wi-Fi calling capabilities. The setting isn’t enabled automatically, however, so you have to go in and turn it on yourself. iPhone users can head to Settings > Phone, then toggle the switch to enable the Wi-Fi feature. On Android devices, try Settings > Networks > Call, and you should find the appropriate toggle.
There’s nothing special you have to do to use it, either, beyond letting your carrier know that you’re going abroad and won’t be making calls or sending texts from your home country. You don’t need to download an app or invite your friends. Other people don’t even need to have the feature enabled.
3. All Major Carriers Are Wi-Fi Capable
All four major carriers in the United States offer phones with Wi-Fi Calling built in, but they each have different guidelines and restrictions. For example, using Wi-Fi calling over T-Mobile guarantees access to the carrier’s speedy 4G network, which is essential for a crystal clear connection. Just check for the ability to call over Wi-Fi the next time you upgrade your phone. Not every smartphone offered by every carrier will have it, so if it’s a deal-making feature for you, don’t walk away with a model that won’t let you do it.
4. Calling Overseas
One of the biggest reasons to take advantage of calling over Wi-Fi is the ability to make cheaper calls from abroad. You need to check with your carrier to discover the rules. However, all of them have some sort of international plan. In some cases, you have to make sure you’re running the right operating system, or else you’ll end up buying a global calling plan anyway.
You also have to use caution. Never get caught trying to make a phone call when you’re not connected to Wi-Fi. This feature erases the fear of roaming charges, but you don’t want to slide over to cellular data without realizing it. Otherwise, this is like using an app to send a text message while you’re in another country. You get around those pesky roaming charges that way, plus you avoid the pay-per-use money pit, and you don’t have to buy an international plan.
Wi-Fi calling is also helpful in your home, specifically any dead spots you have, or when you’re in a place with no connection. When it’s important to stay in touch no matter where you are, you gain a new appreciation for the feature. Have you ever made a Wi-Fi call?
[Image credit: BuzzFarmers, flickr / davebloggs007, flickr]