Review: Could Eir’s wifi calling mean the end of mobile woes?

Tech Tools: Making calls over wifi could save you frustration and lighten your bill

Eir is rolling out its wifi calling service according to the most popular phones on its network.

Product name: Wifi Calling

Price: €0.0

Where to buy: www.eir.ie

Website: www.eir.ie

Thu, Mar 23, 2017, 04:48

   

It’s rare that we feature a service rather than a product, but this one might be of use to mobile customers around the country. Wifi calling is, as the name suggests, making calls over wifi rather than your mobile network, through your mobile phone. That might not sound unusual in itself – after all, we are used to third-party services such as WhatsApp, Viber and Skype offering voice calls over data networks – but wifi calling is something a little different.

You make calls on your mobile phone using the wifi network. But it’s not quite the same as making voice calls through Skype or FaceTime Audio; wifi calling doesn’t require any third-party service, and it’s built into the native dialler on the phone. Once you’ve enabled the feature it will automatically kick into wifi calling when you connect to a wireless network. It’s not free either. You use your mobile minutes and texts as if you were using the mobile network rather than wifi.

It is currently only offered by one network in Ireland – Eir – and only on certain phones for now. So why would you ditch the third-party apps for wifi calling? Quite a few reasons, actually.

Easy to use

First of all, it’s easy to use. Because you don’t need a third-party app on your phone, it doesn’t matter who you are calling – mobile or landline – or if they have the same apps as you. It’s built into the native dialler on the phone, so there is no fiddling about finding the right app. You just punch in the number and call.

Secondly, it boosts your mobile signal. Say, for example, you live in a house where mobile phone signal is pretty rubbish – as I do. In this case it’s a relatively new build, so no thick walls to impede signals, but with wifi and a lot of interference from other devices around me, many phone calls end in the dreaded “call failed” error, or you get a bit of weirdness on the line that sounds like you’re talking to people beyond the grave. Wifi calling cuts that out, as long as you have a decent wireless signal in your home.

Then there are costs to consider. If you travel frequently, you may be eagerly awaiting the end of mobile roaming charges in the European Union that is scheduled to kick in from mid-June. But what about outside that? It can quickly add up if you are in the United States or further afield. Because wifi calling treats your calls as if you were at home, it doesn’t matter where your wifi network is located – the US, Australia, Africa. Once you have wifi access you are treated as if you are at home. Bye bye roaming charges.

And finally, the quality of the calls is high definition. It’s noticeably sharper and they connect more quickly than a regular mobile phone call. It’s a minor benefit, but a welcome one.

Software update

Getting it is equally simple. If you have a supported handset – in this case, the Samsung Galaxy S7 – wifi calling is enabled through a software update pushed out to the phone. There’s very little the mobile user has to do except take the update, and then enable the wifi calling function in settings once everything has installed.

The not so good side of it? As previously mentioned, it will use your allocated minutes on your plan, so if you have a limited call plan, don’t get carried away.

Also, it is dependent on the phone you have. Eir isn’t planning on making it available across the board, although it promises to support as many phones as it can. If your phone is one of the lesser-known devices you may have to live without wifi calling.

Decent wifi is also key. Wifi calling doesn’t use a huge amount of bandwidth but if the signal gets poorer you will hear it.

If you move outside wifi coverage your call will drop. There’s no seamless handover.

The good:

The two main advantages here are cost and quality of service. If you are roaming, for example, you will be able to hook into a wifi network and make your calls as if you are at home – including the price. As for service, those of us stuck with less-than-stellar phone reception, even at home, will be able to boost our service through our home wifi network .

The not so good:

Wifi calling isn’t available for all phones. Eir is rolling it out according to the most popular phones on its network. That also means if you’ve brought your own phone from another network you may never be able to access wifi calling on your handset, unless it’s a model Eir sells.

The rest:

Make sure you have good wifi access – a poor signal will affect your call quality, which is otherwise top notch.

The verdict:

We’re eagerly awaiting the spread of this to other networks.

Price: N/A