With the release of iOS 8, Apple added a nifty feature to the iPhone known as Wi-Fi calling. This very handy addition to the mobile operating system has the potential to prevent a lot of headaches for iPhone users, and could even save them some money too. But it is also a feature that isn’t supported by very many carriers just yet, and isn’t activated by default in iOS. So what is Wi-Fi calling, and why exactly should you care about it? Read on to find out more.
What is Wi-Fi Calling?
Put simply, Wi-Fi calling gives your iPhone the ability to make phone calls while connected to a wireless network, even if your cell service is completely nonexistent. An iPhone running iOS 8 will automatically translate the signals into audio packets that can be routed over the Internet rather than a standard cell phone tower. And while a faster Internet connection will provide clearer audio performance, the feature doesn’t require a particularly fast pipe to make it work properly.
This functionality can help iPhone owners who live in an area of town where their cell service isn’t particularly good. If they have a Wi-Fi connection at home instead, the iPhone can place calls using their Internet service. It can also come in handy for travelers, who can use Wi-Fi calling to place calls while abroad without racking up expensive roaming charges in the process. They can simply connect to a Wi-Fi network in a hotel and use the Internet instead.
It should be noted that calls are made in exactly the same way, and the person you are dialing will not know you are using Wi-Fi, rather than a cell phone network, unless you tell them differently.
Who Supports Wi-Fi Calling?
At the moment, there aren’t very many carriers that actually support Wi-Fi calling, so most of us are still waiting for it to be activated. In the U.S., both Sprint and T-Mobile now support the service, while in the U.K. EE is the sole provider that offers it. AT&T has said it will activate the feature later this year, while Verizon has remained mum on if/when they may do the same.
If you’re interested in knowing when your carrier might activate Wi-Fi calling, I would suggest reaching out to customer service. If enough people ask, perhaps they will implement it as well.
What Phones Support Wi-Fi Calling?
Wi-Fi calling is available on the iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus.
Turning On Wi-Fi Calling
As noted above, this feature is not turned on by default. To activate it, you’ll need to launch the Settings app on your iPhone, and locate the option labeled as “Phone.” If your carrier supports the feature, you’ll find another option labeled as “Wi-Fi Calling.” Tapping it will reveal a toggle switch that enables the service. Turn the feature on by clicking on the switch.
Once activated, Wi-Fi calling is seamless. Provided you are on a wireless network, the phone will than automatically use the connection that provides it the best overall service. You’ll know it is working when you see “Wi-Fi” listed after your carrier’s name in the status bar at the top of the iPhone screen. This is an indicator that the service is turned on and operating properly.