Should I enable Wi-Fi calling on my Android?

What is Wi-Fi Calling?

Wi-Fi calling is a technology that allows users to make and receive phone calls and text messages over a Wi-Fi network instead of using the cellular network. It enables phones to route calls and messages through a nearby Wi-Fi access point rather than relying solely on cell towers. The technology works seamlessly in the background to automatically switch calls between Wi-Fi and cellular connections as needed without interrupting service.

The main benefit of Wi-Fi calling is that it provides better coverage in areas with poor cellular reception but strong Wi-Fi signals, like inside buildings or in remote locations. It can deliver higher call quality by avoiding cell tower congestion. Wi-Fi calling also allows traveling abroad without incurring expensive international roaming charges. Overall, it gives users more flexible calling options on their smartphones when cellular coverage is limited. (1)

Benefits of Wi-Fi Calling

Wi-Fi calling provides several advantages over relying solely on cellular networks for calls and texts. One of the main benefits is better connectivity in areas with poor cellular reception, like underground garages or subway stations. Wi-Fi calling allows you to text and call over any Wi-Fi network, even if you have zero bars of cellular coverage. This means you can stay connected in spots where cellular calls would normally drop.

Wi-Fi calling also reduces cellular data usage, since calls and texts are routed over Wi-Fi and do not count against your monthly cellular data allotment. For those with limited data plans, this can help avoid costly overages from too much calling or texting. Wi-Fi calling may even provide improved call quality in some cases, as Wi-Fi networks tend to offer more bandwidth and stability for voice calls compared to congested cellular networks.

Overall, having Wi-Fi calling as a backup option ensures you have maximum connectivity and reduces reliance on cellular networks alone. Wherever Wi-Fi is available, you’ll be able to call and text regardless of the strength of your cellular signal.[1]

Requirements for Wi-Fi Calling

In order to use Wi-Fi calling on your Android phone, there are certain requirements that your device and cellular plan need to meet:

Compatible Android Phone
First, you’ll need an Android smartphone that supports Wi-Fi calling. Most newer Android models include this feature, but older phones may not. Check with your carrier to confirm your device is able to use Wi-Fi calling.

Wireless Router and Internet Connection

You’ll need access to a working Wi-Fi network in order to place calls over Wi-Fi. This requires having a wireless router set up in your home or accessing a public Wi-Fi connection. Your internet speeds should be at least 2 Mbps download and upload for optimal performance (T-Mobile).

Cellular Plan with Wi-Fi Calling
Your cellular service plan needs to have Wi-Fi calling enabled as a feature. Most major carrier plans now include this, but double check with your provider.

Sufficient Wi-Fi Signal Strength

Lastly, you’ll need to have a strong enough Wi-Fi signal to adequately place and receive calls. If your router is too far away or the connection is spotty, Wi-Fi calling may not work properly.

How to Set Up Wi-Fi Calling

Setting up Wi-Fi calling on your Android phone is easy. The exact steps may vary slightly depending on your device and OS version.

On most modern Android phones running Android 9 or later:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap Network & Internet > Wi-Fi calling.
  3. Toggle Wi-Fi calling to the On position.

On Samsung Galaxy devices, go to the Phone app and tap More options > Settings > Wi-Fi calling and toggle it on [1]. You may need to enter your home address for 911 services.

On Pixel phones, go to Settings > Network & Internet > SIMs > Toggle on Wi-Fi calling for the SIM you want to use it with [2].

Once enabled, your phone will use Wi-Fi for calls and texts whenever you have a strong Wi-Fi connection.

Using Wi-Fi Calling

Once Wi-Fi calling is enabled, your device will automatically route calls and texts over Wi-Fi whenever you are connected to a wireless network. This provides a seamless experience as you move around, with smooth hand-offs between Wi-Fi and cellular networks without dropping calls [1].

You will see an indicator in your status bar showing that Wi-Fi calling is active. On Android, this is usually displayed as “Wi-Fi Calling” or your carrier’s name. On iPhones, it will say “Wi-Fi Calling” and the carrier name [2].

To get the best performance from Wi-Fi calling, connect to a 5GHz network if available, which generally provides greater bandwidth with less interference than 2.4GHz networks. Also try to minimize obstructions between your device and router, and stay in closer proximity to the router/access point.

Limitations of Wi-Fi Calling

While Wi-Fi calling can provide benefits in many situations, there are some limitations to consider:

Emergency 911 calls may route differently when using Wi-Fi calling compared to cellular, which could lead to delays in emergency response. According to Verizon, “Your 911 call may reach a different emergency call center than calls made in that area using traditional cellular service.”1

There is no guarantee of improved call quality compared to cellular. Call quality depends on your Wi-Fi connection strength and bandwidth available. Weak Wi-Fi could lead to choppy calls with Wi-Fi calling enabled.

Hand-off issues can occur when transitioning between Wi-Fi and cellular networks. The call may drop when moving between areas of Wi-Fi coverage. According to T-Mobile, “If you move outside your Wi-Fi network coverage area during a call, your call may be dropped.”2

Wi-Fi calling won’t work at all if you lose internet connectivity. Any outage of your home or mobile internet would mean you can’t make calls over Wi-Fi.

International Wi-Fi Calling

One of the biggest potential benefits of using Wi-Fi calling is the ability to make free or low-cost international calls. When traveling abroad or calling internationally from home, Wi-Fi calling allows you to avoid high per-minute charges from your carrier.

To enable international Wi-Fi calling, you first need to check with your carrier to ensure the feature is supported. Most major carriers like T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T allow international Wi-Fi calling to many countries worldwide. There may be some limitations or extra steps needed to activate it.

In most cases, international Wi-Fi calls back to the US and Canada are free. Calls to other countries are often charged at significantly lower rates compared to regular cellular international charges. For example, AT&T offers calls to many countries for $0.20/minute over Wi-Fi.

Before traveling abroad, be sure to contact your carrier to check rates for the country you are visiting and enable any necessary settings for international Wi-Fi calling access. This can help you save a lot of money on long calls back home or for your business.

Comparison to VoIP Apps

Wi-Fi calling has some key differences compared to making voice calls over the internet using apps like WhatsApp, FaceTime, and other VoIP services:

Pros of Wi-Fi calling:

  • Uses your existing mobile number – you don’t need a separate account or app
  • Calls seamlessly switch between Wi-Fi and cellular networks without dropping
  • Dedicated network resources from your carrier, providing higher reliability
  • Native dialer and call interface – operates just like a normal call

Cons of Wi-Fi calling:

  • Only available on certain carriers and phone models
  • Requires a cellular plan, unlike VoIP apps which can be used standalone

With VoIP apps like WhatsApp or FaceTime, you are limited to calling others who also have that app installed. Wi-Fi calling uses your regular phone number, so you can call anyone in your contacts list normally. The call is routed through your carrier’s network over Wi-Fi, rather than directly peer-to-peer over the internet like VoIP.

Overall, Wi-Fi calling provides a more seamless experience as a native network service. But VoIP apps can allow free calls over data plans or Wi-Fi. For most users who want to improve indoor coverage and call quality, Wi-Fi calling will be the simplest solution without needing separate apps or accounts.

Saving Money with Wi-Fi Calling

One of the biggest benefits of using Wi-Fi calling is that it can help you save money on your monthly cell phone bill. When you make calls over Wi-Fi instead of your cellular network, you avoid using up your allotted minutes or data.

For example, if you have a limited number of minutes per month on your cell plan, Wi-Fi calling allows you to make calls over Wi-Fi without dipping into your monthly allotment. This means you can stretch those minutes further and potentially avoid overage charges. According to a Christian Science Monitor article, Wi-Fi usage for calling surpassed cellular in 2016, indicating many users are leveraging Wi-Fi to cut costs.

Additionally, Wi-Fi calling allows you to make free calls over public Wi-Fi hotspots. So when you are connected to Wi-Fi at a coffee shop, airport, hotel, etc., you can make calls without racking up cellular minutes. This provides great flexibility and savings, especially when traveling domestically or internationally.

Overall, Wi-Fi calling grants you access to an alternative network for calls that can allow you to reduce your monthly cell phone expenses. By taking advantage of Wi-Fi networks whenever available, you can potentially realize significant savings over time.

The Bottom Line

Overall, enabling Wi-Fi calling on your Android phone provides several useful benefits for most users. By routing calls and texts over Wi-Fi networks when cellular coverage is poor, Wi-Fi calling provides better connectivity and avoids dropped calls. It can also help save money on cellular data usage when connected to public Wi-Fi hotspots. The setup process is quick and easy on most modern Android phones.

However, Wi-Fi calling does come with some limitations. Call quality may suffer if the Wi-Fi connection is spotty, and emergency calls may not work reliably over Wi-Fi. There are also potential issues when traveling internationally or switching between Wi-Fi and cellular networks during calls. Nonetheless, these drawbacks are manageable for most everyday users.

In summary, Wi-Fi calling is recommended for any Android user who experiences poor cellular reception in parts of their home or workplace. The benefits generally outweigh the limitations, so it’s worth enabling if you find yourself frequently needing to make calls in Wi-Fi covered dead zones. Wi-Fi calling probably isn’t necessary for Android users with strong cellular coverage everywhere they go.

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