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Ultimate Consumer Guide To
What is
Wifi Calling?

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What is Wifi Calling?

Wifi calling is a service that allows smartphones to dial and receive phone calls and texts over a Wifi connection instead of over the cellular network.

You make a Wifi call by using your cell phone connected to a Wifi network to make calls over the Internet instead of over the cell network as your phone normally does. It can come in handy when you’re in a situation where there is no cell signal or poor cell signal, but solid Wifi coverage.

Many office buildings are a good example. Typically the Wifi is good but cell signals may have trouble penetrating the concrete-and-steel exterior walls.

International travelers and people who work in remote areas with no cell phone coverage often use Wifi calling as a substitute for making cell calls. For example, let’s say your next adventure has you driving the route of the Silk Road in Central Asia.

Your cell phone probably won’t work in Uzbekistan. But even in remote and exotic places like Tashkent and Samarkand, the coffee shops, hotels and restaurants have Wifi so you could call or text friends and family or post your awesome travel photos to Instagram.

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How does Wifi Calling work?

If your phone is not logged into an available Wifi network, it can't use Wifi calling. But once you log in, your phone will recognize that network and switch to Wifi calling anytime you're in range.

No special plan or add-on service is needed to use Wifi calling. It’s a feature built into nearly all newer smartphones. So, except for turning on the Wifi calling feature (see instructions below) you don’t need to do anything different than you otherwise do to place a call or send a text.

Once your phone has Wifi calling turned on, whenever you’re connected to a Wifi network your phone will automatically use Wifi calling. When you move out of Wifi range your phone will automatically switch to the mobile network. Even during a phone call this Wifi-to-cell-network switch should be seamless, with no service interruption.

What carriers and phones support Wifi Calling?

All major U.S. & Canada carriers, as well as many smaller service providers, support native Wifi calling. That is, no separate app is required. If you're not sure if your device supports Wifi calling, check with your carrier.

Clarification: When we refer to Wifi calling and Wifi texting, we mean your phone's native capability to send communications via the Internet. Of course Skype, WhatsApp, FBMessenger and other apps allow you to do voice, text and video messaging over the web, and they're great.

But they require you to download a separate app, and they don't "hand off" your communication to the cell network if you move out of Wifi range like native Wifi calling does.

How can I find out if my Phone supports Wifi Calling?

Check the User Manual that came with your phone. Or do a Web search for ‘your phone model Wifi calling’ without the brackets. Or if all else fails, contact your carrier.

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What are best Apps for Wifi Calling?

Some of the best apps for Wifi calling include FB Messenger, Google Voice, Google Hangouts, Skype, Slack, Viber and WhatsApp. That is by no means an exhaustive list, and there undoubtedly are other fine Wifi calling-capable apps out there. To download the apps we’ve identified or to find others, visit your app store.

What do I need to do to use Wifi Calling?

Since all U.S. cell carriers and nearly all smart phones sold in the past few years support Wifi calling, the only other thing you likely need to make a Wifi call is a Wifi connection. As noted earlier, if your device is older you may want to check with your carrier to make sure the phone supports Wifi calling because not all older smartphones do.

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How to enable Wifi calling?

How to Turn on Wifi Calling on an iPhone:

  1. Tap Settings
  2. Tap Phone
  3. and finally, tap Turn on Wifi Calling

That’s it. Super easy!

Turning on Wifi Calling on an Android phone:

  1. Tap Settings
  2. Tap Advanced Calling
  3. and finally, tap Activate Wifi Calling

Depending on which version of Android OS is installed on your phone, the menu sequence to turn on Wifi calling may be slightly different. If you check the various menus in Settings, you should be able to turn on Wifi calling without a lot of trouble.

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Do charges apply for Wifi Calling/How much does Wifi Calling cost?

Typically, Wifi calling is free. You don’t need a special package or a certain plan. However, it’s possible some carriers may count any minutes used on Wifi calls toward your plan’s limit. If unsure, check with your carrier.

Where will Wifi Calling work?

If you can connect to a Wifi network, you can use Wifi calling.

Do I need a fast Wifi connection?

For best call quality you’ll want a reliable Wifi connection with plenty of available bandwidth. I can tell you from experience, if you do NOT have solid Wifi coverage or sufficient bandwidth then the audio quality of your Wifi calls will suffer.

Wifi calling itself doesn’t use much data – about 1 MB per minute for voice calls and 6-8 Mb per minute for video calls. And since that data is moving over the Internet instead of the cell network, it doesn’t count against any data limit on your cell plan.

However Wifi calling does compete with all other data traffic for bandwidth on a Wifi network. That’s why it’s best to have plenty of available bandwidth. If you have a slow Wifi connection it's possible you could have audio quality issues on your Wifi calls.

How will I know if calls are being carried over Wifi?

For iPhones:

If Wifi Calling is available, you’ll see ‘Wifi’ after your carrier name in your iPhone’s status bar. That means your calls will use the Wifi Calling feature.

For Android phones:

If Wifi Calling is available, a plus sign (+) will appear next to the standard Wifi icon in your phone’s status bar. That means your calls will use Wifi Calling.

Can I use Wifi calling if I also have a MicroCell?

If you are using a MicroCell to improve indoor cell phone reception but want to use Wifi calling, then the phone you use for Wifi calling can’t be authorized (or synched) on the MicroCell. Any device that’s synched to the Microcell will default to the Microcell for calls and text messages.

What if my phone doesn’t support Wifi Calling?

If you have an older model phone that does not support native Wifi calling, you can still make calls and send texts messages on a Wifi network. Just go to your app store and download one of the Wifi calling-enabled apps mentioned in the ‘What are best Apps for Wifi Calling’ section above. Once the app of your choice is installed on your phone, open it and use it for Wifi calling.

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If you occasionally find yourself in situations where you have solid Wifi coverage but weak cell signal or no cell signal at all, then you should probably give Wifi calling a try. In those situations it can be an excellent substitute for calling or texting over the cellular network.