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WiFi Calling — What It Is and How to Use It

an individual works at a desk, using a smartphone in one hand and typing on a laptop with the other

Did you know that you don’t have to solely rely on a cellular network to make calls and send texts? WiFi calling is a hidden feature that allows you to call and text via wireless internet, bypassing the need for a cellular connection. Whenever you’re in a place with a strong WiFi but a weak cellular signal, simply engage WiFi calling and you’ll be able to use your phone as you normally would. 

The majority of cell phone carriers support domestic WiFi calling and texting (including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile), and don’t charge extra for it. You can enable WiFi calling in the settings menu of your smartphone. 

In this article, we’ll cover the ins and outs of WiFi calling, including how to turn it on, its advantages and limitations, and what to do if it’s not working. 

What is WiFi Calling?

WiFi calling allows you to make phone calls and send text messages over an internet signal. When you have WiFi calling enabled on your phone, your calls and texts get routed via the strongest available network, whether that’s a cellular one or a WiFi one. 

Every modern smartphone gives you WiFi calling functionality, and most wireless carriers support it. Carriers tend to treat domestic WiFi calls and texts like regular calls and texts, so they don’t charge extra for them—they simply come out of your cell phone plan’s monthly voice and text allotment (international calls may be subject to additional charges).

WiFi calling is often confused with VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) calling, which similarly uses a wireless internet signal to send calls and messages. However, unlike WiFi calling, third-party VoIP platforms like Skype and WhatsApp are distinct from and have no affiliation with your cell phone carrier and network. They are purpose-built apps that you have to download, and whatever you do on them will come out of your cell phone plan’s monthly mobile data allowance. 

How to Turn on WiFi Calling

To start making WiFi calls, you have to manually enable WiFi calling in the settings menu on your smartphone. The process for turning on WiFi calling is distinct for iPhones and Android devices. 

WiFi Calling iPhone

Here’s how to enable WiFi calling on an Apple iPhone:

  1. Open the Settings menu.
  2. Tap on the Phone icon.
  3. Navigate down to Calls, then click on the Wi-Fi Calling submenu. 
  4. Click the slider next to Wi-Fi Calling on This iPhone.
  5. A pop-up will appear with a disclaimer about information sharing related to WiFi calling. Assuming, you’re o.k. with it, click Enable.
  6. Next, a page will come up asking for your current address for emergency service purposes. Since WiFi calls make it harder for 911 systems to locate you via cellular network, putting in your current address will help them in the event of an emergency. 

WiFi Calling Android

Enabling WiFi calling on an Android phone (Samsung Galaxy, Google Pixel, etc.) is a similarly straightforward process. Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Open the Phone app.
  2. Click on the three dots to the right, and select Settings.
  3. Scroll down to WiFi Calling and click the slider to enable it.
  4. Just as with the iPhone method, you’ll be prompted for 911 emergency location information.

How to Use WiFi Calling

Once you’ve enabled WiFi calling on your phone, there aren’t any extra steps to start using the feature. Just place a call or send a text as you normally would, and your phone will automatically route it through the strongest network, whether that’s WiFi or cellular. 

If what you really want is to force WiFi calling—i.e., ensure your call or text doesn’t go out over a cellular network at all—one method that gets bantered about on forums like Reddit is to put your phone in Airplane mode, then manually engage WiFi. While we tried this and it worked successfully, some users have reported difficulty with it. 

If you have any questions about how WiFi calling works on your specific mobile network, it’s a good idea to visit your carrier’s website. 

The Benefits of WiFi Calling—is WiFi Calling Good?

There are a number of scenarios in which WiFi calling might not only be a good option, but the best one. Here are two: 

  1. You have an internet signal, but not a cellular signal. If you find yourself in a place with a good WiFi signal but spotty cellular service, it can be useful to have WiFi calling engaged, as it will push your calls and texts through successfully. This could be as mundane a scenario as sitting in a basement where a cell phone signal doesn’t quite reach, but a WiFI signal does. 
  2. You’re traveling abroad. If you have a limited amount of talk and text to burn because you’re on an international plan while you’re traveling, using WiFi to make calls or send texts will help you to avoid drawing from it. This also can help you to skirt international roaming charges. 

Despite the advantages of WiFi calling, there are some noted drawbacks to it. These include:

  1. It drains your battery more quickly. You may notice your battery life decreasing more quickly when making calls and sending texts over WiFi. WiFi calling can drain your cell phone battery more rapidly than cellular calls and texts. 
  2. Fluctuations in voice call quality. If the WiFi network you’re relying on to make WiFi calls is congested, experiencing latencies, or weak, it can negatively affect the reliability of your call. 
  3. Disappearing text messages. Some users have reported problems sending and receiving text messages when WiFi calling is enabled, with their messages disappearing. 

What to do if WiFi Calling isn’t working

WiFi calling, for all of its benefits and uses, is only as good as the WiFi network it’s connected to. Internet outages, latencies, and network congestion can all impact your ability to actually use it. 

That said, here are a few troubleshooting tips if you’re encountering issues getting WiFi calling to work. 

  • Verify that your WiFi signal is strong and working correctly. If your WiFi calls or texts aren’t going through, there may be an issue with your internet signal. Verify that you’re within range of the WiFi router, and that the internet connection hasn’t been interrupted. 
  • Verify that Airplane mode isn’t on. Airplane mode will disable the WiFi connection on your phone unless you manually engage it. If you’re having trouble making WiFi calls, make sure Airplane mode is off. 
  • Try resetting your network settings. In some instances your phone may get hung up connecting to a network. Resetting the network settings on your phone can clear the slate and help you reconnect to the WiFi network so you can make WiFi calls. 
  • Restart your phone. If you’re having trouble connecting to a network or otherwise can’t seem to get WiFi calling to work, restarting your phone can help. 
  • Connect to a different network. If all else fails, the culprit may be the specific WiFi network you’re trying to connect to. In this case, try connecting to a different network and see if that fixes the problem. 

Bottom Line

WiFi calling is a handy–if somewhat underpublicized—feature that can make calling and texting possible in areas with less-than-stellar cellular coverage. While you may decide not to rely on it all the time—particularly given the fluctuations in call quality in times of Internet network congestion or interruptions—it may be just what you need when a cellular signal can’t be relied upon. Rest assured that it’s easy to turn this feature on and off from your cell phone whenever you want. 

Searching for a new cell phone plan? Navi’s Plan Finder combs the entire market to present you with the best cell phone plans according to your personal talk, text, data, and perk needs. What’s more, we’ll show you hidden cell phone plan deals you won’t find anywhere else. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is WiFi calling free?

WiFi calling and texting is free aboard most carriers, since they treat them like regular cellular calls and texts. However, some of these same carriers will charge extra for WiFi calls if they go to or come from international phone numbers. 

What is the downside of WiFi calling?

The biggest downside of WiFi calling is that it relies on an internet signal to work—and if that signal experiences interruptions, outages, or latency, your WiFi calling functionality will suffer. 

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