May 24, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. PST
Cellular reception is often poor inside large buildings and other structures. WiFi calling can overcome some problems associated with poor cellular service. This article covers how to make WiFi calls on the iPhone.
Table of Contents
- What Is WiFi Calling?
- Not All Carriers Support WiFi Calling
- How to Make WiFi Calls on Your iPhone
- Troubleshooting WiFi Calls
- Select Android Phones Offer Better WiFi Calling Capabilities
What Is WiFi Calling?
Mobile phones typically use a cellular connection for phone calls. Most modern smartphones, including the iPhone, support WiFi calling. This feature uses a standard, Internet-connected WiFi network for telephony, instead of your cellular network. With WiFi calling, it’s possible to use your phone, even inside a large building with cellular dead zones.
Although most cellular providers offer unlimited calling, this is not always the case. If you don’t have unlimited calls, WiFi calling is essential. It will keep you from wasting valuable minutes and accruing overages.
International calls are another huge advantage for WiFi based calling. Most cellular providers do not offer free international calls over a cellular connection. These long distance calls are usually free if they’re made over WiFi. Make sure to check if your cellular contract allows for free international calls over WiFi.
In some cases, WiFi calls can offer clear, clean audio as opposed to cellular calls. If you’re using LTE voice, cellular call quality should be good. For those buried deep in a building, poor cellular reception can often result in dropped or inaudible calls. WiFi calling ameliorates this issue, providing crystal clear audio without dropping a call.
Not All Carriers Support WiFi Calling
As you have probably noticed, cellular providers offer different features and services. Not all carriers support WiFi calling. I use Google Fi, which is relatively new. The service does not offer WiFi calling. Google Fi users can make WiFi calls using the Google Hangouts app. The app supports WiFi calls using the subscriber’s Google Fi phone number. It’s just not neatly integrated into iOS.
Most cellular providers offer WiFi calling, however, you must activate the feature. In the next section, we’ll look at how to check if your plan offers WiFi calling and how to activate it.
People tend to hold on to their iPhone for a long time. The device is so well made, it’s hard to justify buying a new one every 2-4 years, let alone every year. It’s actually been a problem for Apple, as customers are holding on to iPhones longer than ever.
Unfortunately, if you have an old iPhone, WiFi calling may not be supported. The feature only works on the iPhone 6 or later with Verizon. T-Mobile supports WiFi calls on the iPhone 5c or later. If WiFi calling is an important feature, I suggest upgrading to a newer iPhone.
How to Make WiFi Calls on Your iPhone
Setting up WiFi calling is easy, as long as your carrier supports the feature. You can check for WiFi calling support by tapping Settings > Cellular. If you don’t see a menu item for WiFi Calling, your carrier does not support it. Google Fi subscribers can simply install the Google Hangouts app, which facilitates WiFi calls using your Google Fi phone number.
If your device supports WiFi calling, turn on the switch labelled “WiFi Calling on this iPhone”. A popup will appear confirming your choice. Tap on “Enable”. The setup process will now guide you through providing emergency contact information. You will also need to agree to terms and conditions. When you’re done, you can now make calls over WiFi, when connected to a wireless network. You can even turn on Airplane mode (which kills your cellular connection), turn on WiFi and make calls. This ensures that you’re not using a cellular connection.
Using a cellular connection with WiFi calling provides much more reliable service. If you happen to walk out of range of your WiFi router, your call will seamlessly switch over to cellular service. For those making important phone calls in the office, using both WiFi and cellular service is ideal.
Once you’re up and running, making WiFi calls is easy. Just launch the Phone app and select a contact or dial the number directly. Whenever you’re connected to WiFi, you’ll be making calls over a wireless network instead of using a cellular connection.
If you’re traveling internationally or making an international call, I highly recommend switching on AirPlane mode and turning WiFi on before you make a call. This will kill your cellular connection, ensuring that your call is only made over WiFi.
Troubleshooting WiFi Calls
The iPhone is an easy device to use, but not everything goes smoothly. As easy as it is to setup WiFi calling, things can go wrong. Let’s look at what can go wrong and how to fix it.
If you have an iPhone compatible with WiFi calling, but the feature is not present, you may need to update the operating system. Different carriers require different base iOS installs for WiFi calling compatibility. I recommend upgrading to the latest version of iOS, which should enable WiFi calling. Just tap on Settings > Software Update > Download and Install and follow the onscreen instructions. If you haven’t updated iOS in a while, this could take a long time.
As mentioned before, you need a relatively “new” iPhone to make WiFi calls. WiFi calling phone compatibility depends on your carrier. Verizon requires an iPhone 6 or later, while T-Mobile will work with an iPhone 5C or later. Contact your cellular service provider for more information.
Cellular carriers often push their own updates to your iPhone. These normally present themselves to the user, and most people install them right away. If your carrier updates are out of date, WiFi calling may not work. You can update carrier settings on your iPhone by tapping Settings > General > About. If you see an option to update carrier settings, do so now. If not, your carrier settings are up to date.
Your WiFi network can also cause problems with WiFi calling. If your Internet connection is anything like mine (at least in the SF Bay Area), you probably deal with slow Internet connectivity. If it’s too slow, WiFi calling will not work. It will fail over to a cellular connection, as long as you’re not in Airplane Mode. Of course, if you’ve turned on Airplane Mode to ensure that a cellular connection is avoided (to save money on international calls), a poor WiFi network results in dropped calls and poor audio quality. You’ll need to fix your WiFi network or find a better Internet service provider. Good luck. ISPs are monopolies in many places. If there is competition, they often use the same malfunctioning infrastructure — coaxial cable wires.
Select Android Phones Offer Better WiFi Calling Capabilities
Google Fi offers some unique and advanced telephony features. The service has the ability to automatically and securely connect to WiFi hotspots, even when you’re out in the wild. Switching between networks is seamless, as it is supported by hardware in a few Android phones. If you absolutely need the best WiFi calling, you may consider getting an Android device that’s compatible with Google Fi. It’s baked into the hardware and works flawlessly. We can only hope Apple follows suit.
Google Fi’s seamless switching goes beyond calls. It works with data too. Wherever you are, you can seamlessly and securely connect to a vast network of WiFi routers. It’s all part of the Google Fi plan.
I prefer the iPhone to Android devices, but I have to admit, they have Apple beat on this feature. Calls are a very important feature of smart phones. If you’re looking for a phone that has excellent support for WiFi calling, check out the Google Fi website. They have great offers on phones, with steep discounts on devices and service.