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Why Wi-Fi Calling could be the biggest new feature in iOS 8

Banner of iOS 8 features

As week continues, we're finding out more and more about what wasn't highlighted in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite during yesterday's keynote event. One of those features, Wi-Fi Calling, could easily be one of the most important features in Apple's upcoming mobile operating system for a lot of iPhone users although it was just another bullet point on one of the slides (see image above).

Wi-Fi Calling allows Wi-Fi networks to handle voice calls from an iPhone, provided the iPhone owner's mobile carrier supports the feature. Why is this big news? Let's say that you happen to live in one of those fringe zones where low signal strength and dropped calls are a regular occurrence. With Wi-Fi Calling, your call is routed over your Wi-Fi network and out onto the Internet. You save talk time minutes, your signal strength is as good as your Wi-Fi network, and in situations where you may be near a Wi-Fi network but not on your carrier's network, you might save yourself some roaming fees.

For many of us who are in those fringe zones, our current fallback is to spend extra money each month to retain a landline to use for critical situations where a dropped call or bad signal just can't be tolerated.

Wi-Fi Calling isn't new to smartphones; Windows and Android smartphones have had the feature for some time. To take advantage of Wi-Fi Calling, your wireless carrier will need to support it. At this point, T-Mobile is the only US carrier that has publicly announced support. T-Mobile Chief Marketing Officer Mike Sievert announced yesterday that the company has supported Wi-Fi Calling since 2007 and welcomed iPhone users -- albeit prematurely -- to join in on using the feature.

If the other major US carriers -- AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint -- also announce support for Wi-Fi Calling, it could easily be one of the most profound changes to the iPhone in terms of voice call quality ever. According to Sievert, using Wi-Fi Calling is a no-brainer; just enable the service on your smartphone, connect to any available Wi-Fi network, and you're ready to start calling without fear of a dropped call or roaming charges.

Should those other carriers decide to ignore or delay implementation of Wi-Fi Calling, T-Mobile will find itself in the enviable position of being the sole carrier to provide its customers with landline-quality reliability without the extra expense of maintaining a landline connection.

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