It was mentioned in the company’s keynote as something of an afterthought, but for travelers, it was the one line that piqued the most interest: The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will support Wi-Fi Calling. For those who stay home — and are fortunate enough to call a place home that also has excellent mobile reception — the allure of Wi-Fi Calling is limited. In fact, you probably glossed right over it. But for those who routinely travel outside of their home nation’s borders, Wi-Fi Calling is one of the holy grails of mobile telephony. Despite being available for years now on select handsets at T-Mobile, the iPhone’s lack of support was a major hurdle in it gaining steam.
Now, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will support it, which is a tremendously great thing. The downside? Only T-Mobile in the United States and EE in the United Kingdom are supporting it at launch, and no other carrier has come forward suggesting that they’ll follow suit anytime soon.
For more on the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, check out our Apple event hub!
The issue is twofold: for starters, only a sliver of a carrier’s user base hops overseas frequently. Secondly, it’s a really difficult (and nerdy) feature to explain. In its simplest form, Wi-Fi Calling allows a phone with no signal to make or receive a call using your existing phone number over Wi-Fi. No alternate Google Voice number or weird Skype Out number. We’re talking about your own phone number, but instead of using cellular towers to complete the connection, you’re using Wi-Fi.
This is a huge boon for those traveling overseas. With no effort at all, you’re suddenly able to make and receive calls using your hotel room’s Wi-Fi just as if you were sitting within your home country’s borders. No roaming fees, no forwarded numbers — just normal calling. It’s also the first step in transitioning away from phone numbers in general. These archaic digits make no sense in an age where dialogue can travel in the form of 1s and 0s, and “county codes” are expensive relics of the past that need to go.
Hopefully, more carriers will get behind the Wi-Fi Calling push now that the iPhone is formally onboard, but I’m not holding my breath. As of now, it remains yet another reason to consider T-Mobile if you’re a jetsetter.