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What You Need To Know About Wi-Fi Calling and Assist

Apple introduced Wi-Fi calling in iOS 8 and followed up with Wi-Fi Assist in iOS 9. These are 2 distinctly different features. Wi-Fi Calling has no downsides but Wi-Fi Assist could! Let’s take a look at the differences and how they may effect you.

Wi-Fi Calling

This feature allows the iPhone user to use a Wi-Fi network instead of cellular to make a voice call. This could be extremely useful if you are in an area where there is spotty cellular coverage but you can connect to a Wi-Fi network. This is what’s known as VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol). The various carriers have rolled this out since it was first introduced. Sprint and T-Mobile were one of the first to support it and now it’s supported by almost all of the carriers.

How To Turn It On and Off

To turn this feature on just go to Settings > Phone > Wi-Fi Calling. If you’ve successfully activated the feature, you’ll need to enter your address for emergency 911 service.

Wi-Fi Calling Set up

Wi-Fi Calling

Wi-Fi Calling Set up

Wi-Fi Calling Set up

So now if you are in an area with little to no coverage you can rely on your Wi-Fi network to make voice calls.

Wi-Fi Assist

Wi-Fi Assist was introduced in iOS 9 and turned on by default.

Normally your iPhone will try and connect, first to a Wi-Fi network, which are free and usually fast. If however an app can’t connect on Wi-Fi (no signal), it will try to connect over the cellular network. Subject to the protocols you have set up in Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Usage

Wi-Fi Assist Data Usage

Wi-Fi Assist

This is where you specify whether an app has permission to operate over a cellular network. An example would be your maps app, whether it’s Apple or Google, you would want to be able to navigate outdoors away from Wi-Fi networks.

With Wi-Fi Assist your phone will detect a failing Wi-Fi signal before it drops completely and then switch you over to the stronger cellular connection. The idea is to always keep you connected.

So what does this mean? If you are in an area of your home, office or coffee shop with a poor Wi-Fi the iPhone could switch over to cellular without ever letting you know. This could result in more use of cellular data than you’re accustomed to.

If you elect to pay for a rather limited data plan, this could result in a rather large usage of data, that you haven’t planned for.

How To Turn it On and Off

Go to Settings > Cellular and scroll all the way to the bottom

How To Turn Wi-Fi Assist On/Off

Wi-Fi Assist On/Off toggle

This setting is easily missed because it’s at the very end of a long list of apps. Out of sight out of mind.


Wi-Fi Calling may be super useful because Wi-Fi is just about everywhere! Keep that in mind when you are in an area that has little to no coverage.

Wi-Fi Assist may catch users by surprise if they receive an unexpected data charge from their carrier. If in doubt turn it off and test it with the awareness of how it works.

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