News Column

Wi-Fi Calling Has Advantages and Limitations

April 9, 20913

Omar L. Gallaga

In an email about tech pet peeves, a reader wrote in asking about "Wi-Fi calling," a way of making phone calls without using a wireless carrier's cellular network.

While there are lots of apps like Skype, Fring and Google Voice that will allow a smartphone (even a deactivated one or non-phone devices like an iPod Touch) to connect to phones over a Wi-Fi network, so-called Wi-Fi calling is a bit different.

Wi-Fi calling makes a call automatically using Wi-Fi without opening any app when someone has set their phone to work that way. The downsides are that it still requires a wireless plan to work, and in the U.S., only one major wireless carrier offers Wi-Fi calling as an option: T-Mobile.

On some plans, Wi-Fi calling still counts against monthly cellphone minutes. But on the plus side, travelers who use their phone overseas in Wi-Fi don't get charged roaming or international rates. Not all phones on T-Mobile can access the feature.

The recent announcement that T-Mobile is offering the iPhone 5 soon as part of its stable of devices was tempered with the news that iPhones wouldn't have the Wi-Fi calling feature with T-Mobile at launch.

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Source: 2013 Cox Newspapers