Is Wi-Fi calling all it's cracked up to be, or too good to be true?
Wi-Fi calling seems to be a big focus for the mobile phone networks to tackle the problem of not having enough signal in your home. It's a smart idea and now both EE and Vodafone have launched the service, but what does it all mean?
It's readily available on EE as long as you have one of a number of phones and it'll be launching on Vodafone with limited devices in the coming weeks.
We've spoken to the people in the know to bring you all the details on Wi-Fi calling - the service that keeps your smartphone connected in more places.
What is Wi-Fi calling?
Wi-Fi calling allows you to use a Wi-Fi network to make and receive phone calls, rather than using the traditional mobile network.
This benefits those in poor signal areas, such as rural villages and underground stations, as you'll be able to harness the power of available Wi-Fi networks to stay connected.
It's not just calls that are supported though, you can also send and receive texts.
Doesn't that already exist?
Before you all go 'this has been available for ages from the likes of Skype, Viber, Three, O2 and more recently WhatsApp', let us explain.
Three and O2 have their own applications allowing customers to make and receive calls and texts over a Wi-Fi network.
All your activity is kept separate, which can ruin message flows and confuse call logs, as you'll need to check two apps for potential missed calls and new texts.
Three keeps you inTouch over Wi-Fi already
A similar case is found with Skype, WhatsApp and Viber, although these services don't necessarily link directly with your phone number and provide more standalone communication platforms.
Both EE and Vodafone's Wi-Fi calling works exactly the same as the mobile network, meaning you may not even notice you're actually using a Wi-Fi network rather than the mobile one - although you do get an icon in the status bar alerting you to the fact.
That means your text conversations remain uninterrupted and your call log stays complete - without the need to switch to a different application when using a Wi-Fi network to connect to your friends.
A word of warning here, if you start a call on Wi-Fi and then venture outside of your network's range the call won't automatically transfer to your mobile network - you'll get cut off, and vice versa.
EE says it's working on a seamless transition between mobile and Wi-Fi, but it will only be possible when it launches VoLTE (voice over LTE) later this year.
VoLTE allows 4G networks to carry voice calls and text messages, which are currently limited to the existing 2G and 3G services - and they don't work well with the Wi-Fi calling setup.
Another thing to point out is that EE's Wi-Fi calling is limited to the UK only for now - so you won't be able to take advantage of it when travelling abroad.
Which networks support it?
EE has launched its Wi-Fi calling service
Both EE and Vodafone have launched Wi-Fi calling on the respective networks - Vodafone isn't fully here yet but it's coming soon.
O2 and Three may follow suit, but they're currently pushing their TU Go and InTouch apps, which offer similar functionality with seperate applications.
An O2 spokesperson told us, "We regularly review our products and services based on customer feedback. In the meantime, we're flattered to see others following our lead on wifi calling."
Meanwhile there's light at the end of the tunnel at Three with Danny Dixon, director of customer strategy, telling us; "Seamless connectivity on mobile and Wi-Fi is a key part of our future strategic direction and we've developed Three inTouch in such a way that we can evolve it to support embedded voice and text over Wi-Fi.
"We are currently developing this aspect and will be confirming more details and launch dates soon."
What phones does it work with?
At the moment only a handful of handsets have been enabled by EE - these are the HTC One M9, Samsung Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy S5, iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 5S, 5C and Microsoft Lumia 640.
EE previously confirmed to TechRadar that it was working with HTC before we heard of the One M9 getting support - and there was a suggestion the One M8 may see it at some point too.
Your handset has to come from EE, as it needs the network's software build installed to enable the Wi-Fi calling feature. If you buy yourself a SIM-free S6 from elsewhere for example, sticking an EE SIM card into it won't give you this functionality.
Vodafone's Wi-Fi Calling service has not launched yet and we don't have official word on the compatible handsets just yet.
Meanwhile Three's inTouch app is available on Google Play and Apple's App store, and O2's TuGo offering can be downloaded on iPhones running iOS 5 and above, Android 2.3 and above, Windows Phone 8 and desktop web browsers.
How do I enable Wi-Fi calling?
We can only speak for EE at the moment, so once you receive your Wi-Fi calling enabled handset from the network you will need to text "wifi calling" to 150 to set it up.
Wi Fi Calling
Setup on the Galaxy S6
You will need to able to flick the switch on the Wi-Fi calling option in the settings menu of the phone app. On the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge (and probably the S5 too once the update arrives) just open the phone app, hit 'more' in the top right corner, 'settings' and then scroll to the bottom of the list to turn on.
Your handset will then automatically switch to Wi-Fi calling when it connects to a saved network.
What does it cost?
Nothing! Well, nothing additional on top of your phone contract and home internet bill. The same goes for O2's TU Go and Three's InTouch, which are free apps customers can download and use.
It's worth noting if you've not got unlimited calls or texts, calls and messages made over Wi-Fi on EE and Vodafone will come out of your monthly allowance.
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