Here in the rural idyll of Sussex (or a modern estate in the commuter belt, with a massive Tesco just around the corner) our mobile reception is shocking. Which is why, when my phone contract expired last year, I opted for a Samsung Galaxy S9 – one of the few handsets offering Wi-Fi calling on BT Mobile.
Wi-Fi calling routes all of your phone calls and SMS messages over Wi-Fi if it can’t find a decent cellular connection. And it worked pretty well until recently. Then my phone upgraded itself to Android 9, codenamed Pie. Although PIA – pain in the arse – would be a more fitting sobriquet.
Not only did Pie knock out my ability to record telephone calls – an invaluable feature for a journalist – it also knackered the Wi-Fi calling.
It’s hard to work out exactly what’s changed in Pie, but online chatter in various forums – including this thread on the T-Mobile support site – suggests that the new version of Android has tweaked the threshold at which the phone will fall back on Wi-Fi calling. That means the phone will cling to a weak, intermittent cellular signal with choppy call quality instead of handing it over to Wi-Fi. Why Google’s developers decided to do this is anyone’s guess.
Annoyingly, that means Wi-Fi calling has become next to useless for a great many people who live in areas of barely-there mobile reception.
You can’t – to the best of my knowledge – force the phone to use Wi-Fi calling. The only effective way to do this is to put the phone in Airplane Mode and then turn Wi-Fi back on manually. I’ve tested this on my Galaxy S9 and it works, but there are significant downsides to this, chiefly that you’ve got to remember to flick the phone out of Airplane Mode every time you leave the house.
It’s possible that Android apps such as Tasker might allow you to automate this process – flicking the phone into Airplane Mode every time it sees you’re within range of your home Wi-Fi – but I’m not sure whether it can be programmed to turn Wi-Fi and Bluetooth back on. I shall investigate.
In the meantime, if anyone else knows of a way around this quandry, I and plenty of other mobile reception refugees will be hugely grateful. Drop suggestions on comments below.
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