T-Mobile’s Wifi calling makes no sense on unlocked phones

2 min read

I have been a long-time Verizon customer. The cellular gods are not kind to my coverage area. After all the “Uncarrier” talk and pink commercials, I thought it was time to see what T-Mobile had to offer. Overall, I have been more than happy with my decision with one exception…WiFi Calling. I simply don’t understand it on the Magenta network.

I get the phones that they sell in stores will offer this service, but it’s the carrier unlocked phones that are a mystery to me. Some work. Others don’t. And there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason as to which ones get chosen. The Nexus line works. As does the OnePlus 3T. But the Moto Z Play doesn’t. This one is the phone that confused me enough to be writing words now.

OK…let’s break this down. The Moto Z Play lacks support for WiFi calling in its current software build. However, the new Moto G5 Plus released a month ago does. Well, you may say “Andrew, the newer phone has different hardware”. Except that it doesn’t. The Moto G5 Plus is essentially the EXACT same internals in a new dress.

So obviously it’s software related on phones that support this highly advertised feature at T-Mobile. But even that is murky at best. The Z Play and Moto G5 are both running the 7.0 Nougat update. I know that all ROMs aren’t the same despite carrying the same version numbers. It’s the fact these two phones are so similar, and from the same OEM, that baffles me. One would assume that if the OEM went through the certification process with TMO that most other phones from that company would also be in line.

The bigger thing that bothers me may be the “Uncarrier” not supporting unlocked phones at the same level. To have some supported and not others seems counterproductive to the vibe John Legere is constantly preaching. The inconsistency of which phones receive WiFi calling is troubling. As well as the back in forth in their support forums on who’s responsible. Is it T-Mobile? Or is the manufacturer? Or maybe it’s up to Google to implement hooks in AOSP to enable this functionality throughout all Android builds? I just know it’s confusing to end users.

I’m still happier than not that I made the switch to T-Mobile. I would only ask to see better documentation on unlocked phones and a bigger push from the network to support being more widespread on those devices. As someone who changes devices numerous times a year, it’s disappointing to have the need to guess whether my next phone will be handicapped from this feature. Let’s have a true “Uncarrier” for the truly unlocked customer.