How to make voice calls on your iPhone without cell service

“Thanks to apps like Facebook Messenger and Skype, it’s possible to call nearly anyone regardless of whether or not you have a carrier plan or even know the recipient’s phone number,” Lisa Eadicicco reports for TIME Magazine.

“But an increasing number of phones and carriers are beginning to support Wi-Fi calling too. As its name implies, Wi-Fi calling is a feature that makes it possible to place a call so long as your phone is connected to Wi-Fi,” Eadicicco reports. “This means if you’re stuck in an area with poor cell reception, you’ll still be able to make a phone call by connecting to a Wi-Fi network.”

“There’s no need to launch an app or send a request to the recipient like you might have to when using Messenger or Skype, since Wi-Fi calling is integrated directly into your phone,” Eadicicco reports. “You can place a call as you normally would through your phone’s dialer or contact list.”

[protected-iframe id=”1ab1e357c5e44379078a54a87d0053c2-17146794-18685410″ info=”//″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen=””]

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Do you use Wi-Fi calling on your iPhone? How about FaceTime and/or FaceTime Audio?


    1. Used Facetime messenger for a video and audio call last week because the girlfriend didn’t have her phone for two weeks and was using a wifi-only phone.

      Video was terrible in quality and energy use; grainy, and it drained the battery by over 50% in just 15 minutes. Next time we just used audio, was horrible quality with lots of echo and feedback. Third time was audio-only too, that was, finally, acceptable quality.

      1. TruPhone was an iOS and Macintosh app that allowed WiFi Calling. The Company branched into a unique MVNO that allows one Sim to have multiple numbers all appearing as a local number- something very valuable to business people and road warriors- and has dropped the WiFi app as of last month to concentrate on the other business.

        The TruPhone app at one time ran on Windows and Mac desktops, iPod Touch, iPad and iPhone. For $50 a year you could get a fixed phone number and a bucket of minutes that could be also used to make calls very cheaply internationally. They also sent you your voice mails as a sound attachment to your email. It was a very good service and I have yet to see a clear replacement.

        About 4 years ago I was involved in an MVA and my AT&T phone had no useable signal, but my Verizon iPad did and with the TruPhone app I was able to make my emergency calls.

        Another great use was turning off cell data and making calls on WiFi outside the US. Most Airports, Train Stations, Hotels, etc have free WiFi and calling with it was much cheaper than using international data.

        1. Yes, I remember those years, but I think MDN wasn’t talking about TruPhone. They were asking about people’s experience with WiFi calling (and FaceTime), which is why your answer seemed a bit confusing.

  1. The “service” that is AT&T is so spotty that I often use Facetime Audio in its place. At least the call is placed, and, is crystal clear. I think there are $billions to be made by Apple if they disrupted the cellular service market with something better. Too bad Tim Cook is just not that creative.

    1. Why don’t you use WiFi calling instead of FaceTime? It doesn’t require an iPhone on the other end, you can call land lines, non-Apple phones, toll-free numbers, and it works like a regular phone (because it IS a regular phone; it just goes over WiFi instead of cellular network).

  2. Unlike all other services (such as FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, TruPhone, etc), where sender and recipient must have the required app / phone, AND be logged in / online at the time, WiFi calling doesn’t need any of that. It just works like it should.

    Many here probably don’t know what it is (or that it even exists). Some two years ago, Apple introduced it in iOS 8, with T-Mobile USA supporting it from day one. It worked on iPhone 5S and newer. Today, all US carriers have the feature. It allows your phone to use WiFi, rather than cellular (mobile) networks for voice calling. Once you turn it on in phone’s settings, there is nothing else to do. Whenever you’re connected to a WiFi network, the phone will automatically switch to WiFi calling. In the top-left corner, where you normally see your carrier name, it will simply add WiFi (Ex: T-Mobile WiFi).

    And it works flawlessly. Most of my day I spend in an office that has marginal mobile coverage. I had always struggled to get a decent call quality, until two years ago, when WiFi calling was introduced. As soon as I updated my 5S to iOS8 and turned on WiFi calling, my problems went away. In an average day, I make many more WiFi calls than over ordinary network. WIth WiFi generously spread across NYC (on subway platforms, and now on city avenues, with the new LinkNYC free network), I rarely need to use T-Mobile’s own mobile network for voice calls.

    As for FaceTime, I only use it when I need to see and be seen (for example when wife sends me to the supermarket for groceries, and I need her to pick her beets, turnips, potatoes…).

    1. “And it works flawlessly.” Except when it doesn’t work at all. ATT does not allow it on their GoPhone service, with automatic payment option. For $40/mo, I get all the calling and data I can use (moderate user), but WF calling is not allowed.

  3. I’ve been using wi-fi calling on my 6S for about a year on T-Mobile. It turns on by itself whenever I have a good wifi connection. Most noticeable at a school where I volunteer which has no cell signal in the lower levels. I used to go upstairs and find I missed a call or text message an hour before, but no more. Works well when traveling in areas that T-Mobile doesn’t have coverage (which are too many). Just look for an open wifi signal (McDonald’s, rest stops, etc.) and get your text messages, check voicemail, and make calls. It was sort of flakey at first, have not noticed too many problems with it lately.

    1. No. It is completely transparent to the user. Instead of connecting to the cell network, your phone connects to WiFi. All voice calls take place exactly in the same way, and the only difference is that the network that carries them is WiFi (and the internet), rather than cell network (essentially, LTE, and the internet). While cellular network may be a bit more robust and have lower latency due to the prioritisation of voice packets, for the user, the two behave exactly in the same way and user can’t tell which the phone is using (other than looking in the top-left corner at the network identifier label).

  4. I presume that one needs to use an iOS higher than 9.3.5 (my current OS)? I do not want to take a chance installing iOS 10.x on my 5S which might slooooo me down, forcing me to upgrade to a newer phone before I am ready to .. just for this to work Wi-Fi fix to work. I presently get along OK with Google Voice.

  5. Interesting. Did not know about WiFi calling. Here are the instructions for activating WiFi calling on most any iPhone. You don’t need other apps. It uses WiFi to make regular phone calls.

    1. Open the Settings app.
    2. Tap Phone > Wi-Fi Calling.
    3. Switch the Wi-Fi Calling on This iPhone slider to On.
    You’ll see a warning about location data and what your carrier collects. Tap Enable to turn on Wi-Fi Calling.
    For some carriers, like AT&T, you may be bumped into a Safari WebView, where you’re asked to agree to terms and conditions and provide an Emergency Call address (in case you dial 911 and they can’t locate you on Wi-Fi, this gives emergency responders a place to send assistance).

    Apparently, you can also sync up your other devices to do Wi-Fi calling too. See this article:

  6. So, I gather that the main difference between WiFi calling and FaceTime audio/Whatsapp is that you get charged according to your cellular plan with WiFi calling, and toll calls such as international are free with FaceTime audio and Whatsapp.

    1. Yes, you pay long distance (and it goes against your minutes, if your carrier limits them).

      Of course, for FaceTime, you can only call other iPhones, and for WhatsApp, you need to download and install a third-party app (and the other side as well). And you still can’t call land lines or toll-free numbers.

  7. And, as Mark above mentions, the best side benefit from turning on WiFi calling is the ability to make and receive phone calls from any iCloud-connected device. This includes macs, iPads, iPods, anything that connects to WiFi, has built-in FaceTime and can log into the iCloud.

    I have an iPhone, but when I get a phone call on that phone, I can answer it on my office Mac (Mini), home iMac, office MBP, personal iPad, and, of course, the iPhone. I can also make outgoing phone calls from all these devices, using my T-Mobile line.

    This is simply way too cool!

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.