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Gimme a boost: 3 ways to make calls when your cellular signal is terrible

Eric Geier | Aug. 4, 2014
In our increasingly connected age, it's frustrating to find yourself in a place where the cellular connectivity is weak to nonexistent. And that frustration only magnifies when you have to struggle with poor voice quality and dropped calls in your very own home.

In our increasingly connected age, it's frustrating to find yourself in a place where the cellular connectivity is weak to nonexistent. And that frustration only magnifies when you have to struggle with poor voice quality and dropped calls in your very own home.

Geography, money, technology, and the different ways buildings are put together can all factor into why signals from the cell towers will never be perfect. Nevertheless, you have options for boosting that wimpy cell signal — or generating one yourself.

Use Wi-Fi calling (and texting)

Wi-Fi calling is one of the cheapest and easiest options to get calling and texting where you've got little or no cell signal. You just need a good Wi-Fi connection, whether that's at home, in the office, or on a public hotspot. It's similar to Voice over IP (VoIP): your phone call connects over the Internet.

The VoIP apps you'll find when you peruse Google Play or the iOS App Store don't fully integrate into the phone, however; typically, they require the use of another phone number and/or the person on the other line to have the same app. In some cases, you'll even need a paid subscription to talk to anyone.

However, some wireless carriers offer an integrated Wi-Fi calling feature that uses your existing phone number and native dialing and messaging apps. Best of all, you won't really know the difference between Wi-Fi and cell calling.

T-Mobile started offering Wi-Fi calling back in 2007. It's supported on Android and Windows smartphones, and will come to iPhones soon as a feature of iOS 8. It works internationally as well, providing free calls and messaging back to the States when you're traveling abroad.

I used T-Mobile's Wi-Fi calling feature for nearly two years on my Samsung Galaxy II at my home, office, and when I was out of the country. Overall, I found it to be pretty useful, and voice quality was good provided I had a strong Wi-Fi signal and enough network bandwidth. I would have found it even more useful if I could enable Wi-Fi calling only for desired Wi-Fi networks, so that it wasn't active on networks where I couldn't be guaranteed of a strong signal.

Sprint just started offering Wi-Fi calling this year; it currently supports only a couple Android smartphones. The carrier doesn't offer international Wi-Fi calling, but it plans to add that capability in the future.

I haven't used the Sprint Wi-Fi calling, but from the looks of it, that carrier's process differs from T-Mobile's. First, you must initially register for the free service on your device. Then you select which Wi-Fi networks you authorize to use for Wi-Fi calling. That's a convenient feature: you can enter your home, office, or other Wi-Fi network where you know you'll have a great signal, and your phone will automatically use Wi-Fi calling when it's connected to those networks.

 

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