DON'T BLOW YOUR BUDGET!
Click to see the best holiday gifts under $25.
Sign In

Benefits to Wi-Fi Calling: It's About Convenience, Not Saving Money

In the near future, you could place a call on Wi-Fi and have it seamlessly transition to cellular. Plus, you can place an Internet call with your existing wireless number.
Published
Lion King

This week's iPhone 6 announcement included the news that iOS 8 will support calls over Wi-Fi. This feature, already available on some Android models, lets you make calls, send texts, and even check voicemail across a Wi-Fi network, which makes it easier to use your phone even in poor service areas. T-Mobile also announced that it would allow this function on its phones, which makes Wi-Fi calling the hot topic of the week. So how can you use this function?

Never Be Without a Signal

Because most carriers already offer unlimited calling minutes on many plans, this isn't necessarily a move that will save you money: instead, it makes it easier to use your phone by offering the best service even when you're in an area that has poor cellular coverage.

But if saving money is what you're after, this could make your cell phone a replacement for a landline (if you haven't already gotten rid of that) when you're at home and likely to have reliable Wi-Fi. On top of that, international travelers will find Wi-Fi calling a cost savings, too: If you have Wi-Fi, you can make calls home (or to any number of places in the U.S.) for free.

Sure, you can already make phone calls over Wi-Fi with apps like Skype, but these apps often only let you connect with another user on the same app or pay additional fees to call phone numbers — and they rarely work with your existing phone number. With Wi-Fi calling supported by your phone and your carrier, there are no apps to install or setup to worry about; you'll be able to make free calls to any phone number using your existing phone number as long as you're connected to Wi-Fi. And if you're talking via your Wi-Fi network when you leave the house, the call will seamlessly switch to cellular.

Only On T-Mobile — For Now

However, not all future iPhone 6 owners will be able to use this new feature: currently, T-Mobile is the only carrier that supports Wi-Fi calling for iPhone. And not content to leave it at that, the company has gone bigger, announcing this week that they'll support Wi-Fi calling on all of their smartphones for no extra charge. All new smartphones from T-Mobile will be capable of Wi-Fi calling, and if you don't have a phone with Wi-Fi calling functionality, you can upgrade it through the Jump program even if you aren't currently eligible for an upgrade.

This isn't as groundbreaking a feature as some of T-Mobile's "Uncarrier" initiatives, which have included eliminating contracts and offering straightforward plan and phone pricing without subsidies. It is, however, a solid benefit for any T-Mobile customer with a compatible smartphone that improves service and coverage — and the price is certainly right, with no extra charge to use the feature.

Though you might worry about your home bandwidth — especially if you're in a household full of talkers with T-Mobile phones — chances are that's not a concern. Though T-Mobile doesn't publish bandwidth recommendations, recommended bandwidth for similar application Skype says voice calls need between 30kbps and 100kbps of bandwidth to make a call; and at a time when bandwidth is typically measured in much larger mbps, that's not much. While there's the chance this might be noticeable if everyone's on the phone at once, it's unlikely. Households with fewer phones (or fewer phones making phone calls) aren't likely to notice any slowdowns at all with the service.

Will other carriers jump on the Wi-Fi calling bandwagon? With the iPhone 6 due out this month, major carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint will have to make a decision soon. What do you think, reader? Is Wi-Fi calling enough of an incentive to push you towards an iPhone on T-Mobile? Let us know in the comments below.

Contributing Writer

Originally working in IT, Elizabeth now writes on tech, gaming, and general consumer issues. Her articles have appeared in USA Today, Time, AOL, PriceGrabber, and more. She has been one of DealNews' most regular contributors since 2013, researching everything from vacuums to renters insurance to help consumers.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
You might also like
Leave a comment!

or Register
15 comments
mrclean92124
If you are an Android user, download GrooveIP. It bypasses the IP stack and allows for free VOIP over wifi and even 3G/4G. It's an amazing option for the times where your phone signal is weak or you are traveling internationally. For non-unlimited minutes users, it is a fantastic way to stretch your minutes. Also GrooveIP will get you into all conference call phone numbers and you get a phone number so people can dial you as well. You can also dial other people on their phone numbers too.

I also use the MagicJack phone app... that one gives you a virtual phone number, and they have ridiculously low international rates, most Mexico calls are like $0.02 per minute. Another great option for low low international calls if you don't mind pre-loading minutes. 10$ goes a long ways lol. Downside with Magic Jack is no dialing into phone conference numbers. Also allows you to dial real phone numbers for free.
mrclean92124
If you are an Android user, download GrooveIP. It bypasses the IP stack and allows for free VOIP over wifi and even 3G/4G. It's an amazing option for the times where your phone signal is weak or you are traveling internationally. For non-unlimited minutes users, it is a fantastic way to stretch your minutes. Also GrooveIP will get you into all conference call phone numbers. I also use the MagicJack phone app... that one gives you a virtual phone number, and they have ridiculously low international rates, most Mexico calls are like $0.02 per minute. Another great option for low low international calls if you don't mind pre-loading minutes. 10$ goes a long ways lol. Downside with Magic Jack is no dialing into phone conference numbers.
granny483
I've been with Republic Wireless for almost a year now. Granted it's an Android system, but their whole business model is based on using wifi over cell. Love the service and have had no major problems. Best part? After buying a top class Moto X (cheaper than it would have cost me at Amazon at the time; I paid around $300), I pay $10 plus tax monthly for unlimited talk, text and data over wifi, unlimited talk and text over cell. I could also get unlimited data over cell for $25/month. No contract..... and I find I like the Android base. Bottom line? Talking over wifi can be much cheaper than over cell with the right provider!
upx42
Looks like it'll still cost me minutes -- which was my main reason for using it in the first place :-(
upx42
T-Mobile WiFi calling --
In December, I upgraded my SIM card to enable WiFi calling, but found out that it did not work with T-Mobile's Pay-As-You-Go (Prepaid) plan. Only on their high end monthly plans.
Does anyone know if this has changed?
christyp16
I remember when T-Mobile came out with this option back in 2007 for an additional cost, and it was a flop for them. I'd forgotten about wifi calling until the recent apple announcement! But now wifi calling would serve me well since I get no signal in my apartment half the time. People always say they tried to call me, yet my phone says no missed calls. ATT had better get on this bandwagon, or I'll switch to t-mobile.
archielee
If I understand T-mobile's WiFi calling feature correctly, its NOT just the ability to make phone calls on your cell phone via a WiFi connection, its the ability to receive calls from people calling you on your cell phone number. When you call people and they call you via T-mobile's WiFi, its all via your cell phone number. That's what they will see on CallerID. Also when people call you they don't need to call some other phone number. As far as they know they called your cell phone number and as far as they know its a 'cellular connection' though its actually a WiFi connection. THAT's the difference.
JCaverly
Have you looked into Republic Wireless? They are my current service provider and wi-fi calling has been a staple of their plans since they started out in beta. They offset price plans by hoping that you stay on wi-fi most of the time. I pay less than 30 a month for unlimited talk, text and data. This should def be part of the article.
Arnie L
Check out http://republicwireless.com . This is already available for much less $ if you can handle android, and why not?
uberdad
I use Republic Wireless which is actually based on using WiFi as the primary communications channel, and Sprint MVNO as the cellular had-off. Seamless call hand-off from WiFi to cell on my Moto X. Their pricing model reflects the use of WiFi as primary channel. Much less when compare to Big 4.
l1onheart
I've been use this feature like long time with my Nokia Lumia 925 and some of my other android phone. Don't get me wrong, I like Apple phone but they so slow in feature for their phone
pmrjulio
You can get this same service with iOS at this moment. I just download Google Hangouts and you can make calls with it and I use Google Voice for texts. You just need a free Google voice number. Hopefully they will fuse both apps in one.
iowac
The feature that you really are talking about is UMA, or Unlicensed Mobile Access which allows the wifi calling. I have used my phonepower wifi call feature on my iphone
Brian_U
Wi-Fi calling is NOT a new feature, and it's not only on the overpriced iPhone 6 and Android phones. The Nokia Lumia 521 has had Wi-Fi calling for a long time.
iowac
This is not a function dependent on the carrier as much as it is a feature on the phone itself. The phone has to have the ability to do that and then you jump on a wifi network that is not dependent on your carrier. Unless AT&T and the like tell Apple to give them devices without this feature (which would be dumb) I am pretty sure the wifi calling feature INCLUDED from APPLE will be very much available on any cell phone carrier.

This seems like a article with a bit of scare tactic to push folks to T-Mobile