Everything to Know About Free WiFi Calling -- and How To Use It When You Travel
This past winter I received an alert from my iPhone about WiFi calling. My mobile device asked if I wanted to activate WiFi calling and though unsure of what if was, I agreed. #RiskTaker
If it worked the way it sounded, I knew it'd be essential for my upcoming month traveling in Asia, where I'd have to hop on a few conference calls with US clients for work. I also knew it'd be great to test out, since my post on how to activate Sprint's free global roaming feature is my most popular article to date.
Here's what you need to know about WiFi Calling & my experience using it in 3 different countries:
What is WiFi Calling?
WiFi calling is a mobile feature that allows you to make and receive phone calls to any US, US Virgin Island, and Puerto Rico phone number over WiFi, for free. It is available for iOS and Android devices.
How to use Wifi Calling for Free Calls While Traveling
When I travel, I activate my free Sprint Global Roaming plan for unlimited 2G data and unlimited texting. Phone calls, unfortunately, are 20 cents per minute. Previously, I used Google Hangouts to make phone calls, but receiving calls was a little more complicated. Now I turn on WiFi Calling instead and make or receive phone calls to/from the US for free, just as long as I am connected to WiFi (I use a Sprint iPhone 6s with a US phone number).
While in Taiwan (a destination that has some of the most reliable internet I've ever experienced) I was able to take hour-long conference calls that were clear and without lag or interruption. When I checked my phone bill upon return, I had no extra charges.
Note: there are a some countries that do not allow WiFi Calling, like China, Syria, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, and Sudan, to name a few. Be sure to check with your carrier to ensure the country you are visiting allows it. Using a VPN for WiFi Calling violates the feature's terms of service.
Which cellphone Carriers Use WiFi Calling?
I use Sprint, but WiFi Calling is not exclusive to Sprint. My fiancé, Alex uses Verizon and an Android (Samsung) and was alerted to his WiFi Calling feature shortly after me. After doing some research, I can confirm that the four major US mobile carriers: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile all offer WiFi calling now.
How to Activate WiFi Calling
Here is how to activate WiFi calling on both Android and iOS devices (instructions are below the images). When activation is successful, you'll see your phone's signal read "[Carrier] Wi-Fi" at the top of your device screen. Mine says "Sprint Wi-Fi".
iOS instructions: Go to settings; scroll down to "Phone"; under the "Calls" section, click on "Wi-Fi Calling"; Toggle switch to turn on (it will light green when on)
Android instructions: Go to settings; scroll to "Connections"; search for Wi-Fi calling (note: Android steps vary per device)
Cons of WiFi Calling
With every new bit of technology, there's always a downfall. With WiFi Calling, here's what I found to be the cons:
Dropped calls: Sometimes I forget to turn off WiFi Calling when I don't need it, which isn't a big deal until I am taking a phone call with a bad WiFi signal. One of the rooms I work in, for example, has a bad WiFi signal and drops my calls often. I have to constantly remind myself to turn if off and use my standard mobile service.
WiFi Calling uses your location: If you have location services on, your mobile carrier is able to see your location if needed, as well as emergency responders. I don't mind this, but some people do.
WiFi router must meet hardware requirements: I was in a hostel once where my WiFi Calling did not work, therefore forcing me to take a call at 20 cents per minute. I later learned that routers are recommended to be "a Wi-Fi Router that supports either the 802.11n or 802.11ac standards" (source: Sprint) and that budget hostel had a really old router. (Referral: That hostel was a rarity in a sea of awesome Taiwan accommodations.)
Warning for limited WiFi: WiFi calling uses about 1MB/minute of data, which means if you have a limited plan, you should be aware of your WiFi usage.
Ready to travel with free WiFi Calling?
Let me know where you're off to next! I hope you find "WiFi Calling" useful -- it is a new travel-friendly tech favorite for me and totally upgraded my connectivity while abroad.
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