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Lumia 521
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T-Mobile Nokia Lumia 521 joins an elite crowd: will support Wi-Fi calling

You might not know this, but before I was 110% Windows Phone I had a thing for Blackberry. Specifically the Curve 8320. That’s because it had one feature in a smartphone that I absolutely needed back then – Wi-Fi calling. If you’re a Windows Phone fan and hoping to get a phone with Wi-Fi calling you might want to check out the Nokia Lumia 521.

On May 20, anyone with a Lumia 521 on T-Mobile will be getting an update to software/firmware version 1030.6409.1316.0016. The update will be delivered over-the-air (OTA) and add Wi-Fi calling to the little handset that could.

Great news right? Yeah, except you will be needing to do a master reset after completing the update. That means you’ll need to back up your device and not get too heavily involved with a game – like Monster Burner. To get the update make sure you’re running the latest version of the OS, have more than 50% battery life, and at least 150MB of available memory on your device.

Firmware

The Lumia 521 isn’t on the wish list for most of you, but it’s a compelling handset for budget shoppers or first time smartphone owners. It’s also the first Windows Phone device that we can think of to have the ability to place calls over Wi-Fi. Know of any others? No word on if this is using Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) technology to get it done, but we’ll hit up T-Mobile and Nokia to find out more for you and if we can look forward to this feature in other handsets.

The Lumia 521 is becoming a compelling device between the low price and new Wi-Fi calling feature.

What do you think of placing calls over Wi-Fi? Is this a feature that should come to higher end Lumia devices?

Source: T-Mobile Support, Windows Phone Central Forums

Thanks for the tip Dustin H!

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Reader comments

T-Mobile Nokia Lumia 521 joins an elite crowd: will support Wi-Fi calling

98 Comments

Where's the updates for other windows phones now? And do you think this trend will transfer over to the Catwalk?

does that mean other tmobile WP devices like 810 can also get wifi calling? Always thought / was told that it was the WP OS that was preventing wifi calling.

Me too. I thought it was an OS limitation. I have a Lumia 810 and would love to have WiFi calling!

i was lead to believe that wifi calling missing from the 810 was a hardware restriction, not software when i researched the phone (never bought it, thank goodness. got the 521 here recently)

I hope they bring it to the HTC 8X too, I've been missing WiFi calling since I switched. UMA would be amazing though.

the 8X has it. Apparently you: Have to have a compatible plan, Have a specific sim model (not just any micro sim), the latest update, and full reset your phone

All Lumias need this feature. Plans are getting more expensive and I hate going over the minutes. This feature would be like gold.

It doesn't use minutes for domestic calls while in the US. If you read that doc, it states it uses plan minutes for calls made outside US, calls made from outside US to domestic, and calls made outside Us from outside the US. I have worked for TMO for more than 4 years.

That would be cool! But I wonder if this wifi-calling kind of eliminates the need for subscription to a roaming plan, since you can use wifi to make and receive calls outside US?

I hope T-Mobile gets some high end Nokia devices later in the year with this feature. I would make the switch from AT&T in a heartbeat as I am abroad alot.

Nokia is introducing so many features that it has a lot to accomplish. I wonder what will happen if Microsoft was doing this

They are using the money they get from Microsoft to do this. :) Well I hope the billion a year they receive from Microsoft contributes to these types of moves.

Nokia does not make the WiFi calling feature. Movial makes the IMS client that allows for access to the T-Mobile network via WiFi.

You should make more phone calls and fewer comments on this forum. Have you looked at the shared data plan? Unlimited everything, except data. I had a ton of rollover minutes too because I never call anybody. I'm too busy making thought provoking comments on the WPC forums.

You can make and receive calls and texts using your own number, wherever you are in the world. No paying for Skype out minutes or ensuring your caller uses Skype or some VoIP app. Especially good in low reception areas where there is WiFi - you can still use your phone like normal. Great for travelers.

You don't have to "pay" for it per se. If you have anything other than a current post-paid plan it will deduct from your minutes normally.

I have a Lumia 710 right now. I would normally upgrade in April but I sort of want to go ahead and get this. I would just feel like a goof if I bought the 521 now and then a better deal comes out in April. What do you think?

Really the phones is a low price. With all phones full price, you can upgrade whenever you want and put a phone on installments. If you want a more high end device, I would suggest waiting until June/July though

What do you have in mind?  I was considering the Catwalk with T-Mobile.  That would be something worth waiting for!

Yeah, I would definitely wait for the Catwalk/Lumia 925(930) if I were you. That will be a WAY better phone than the 521.

Love love love WiFi calling. Tmobile used to push that feature to many of their handsets, not just BBs. Kinda sad I had to leave their service. WiFi call quality was amazing. People used to say I sounded like I was standing right next to them during a call

It uses a protocol called UMA (Unlicensed Mobile Access) to connect to T-Mobile's network and places calls that way, much in the same way a MicroCell works, but using WiFi instead of producing a separate 3G signal.

Incorrect, t-mobile has already stated that they are phasing out UMA. The new WiFi calling works through their IMS based network. The old blackberry phones will still be able to use UMA for a while but it is not compatible with an IMS.

Holy crap this is awesome. For budget minded people, this means you can get a no contract phone for $130 and use walmarts $30 T-Mobile plan that offers unlimited data but only 100 calls. If calls are made over WiFi it makes that plan a lot more feasible. Most of my calls are made from a home or workplace that has WiFi.

So you know for sure that wifi calling minutes don't count towards the 100-minute monthly alotment?  That's pretty awesome if so.  Wonder how the call quality compares to Skype...

I know for sure it doesn't count against minutes on regular accounts, completely unsure of monthly4g. I would think possibly not because usually we have a free feature to put on the account for WiFi calling and that feature is not available on monthly4g.

It doesn't compare to Skype... it blows Skype out of the water. Well, that was my experience using it at a university locally (part of my building was underground, so my phone switched to Wifi calling with my old Android and it was business as usual), using it in Canada, and using it in China. Seeing as how you're still making/receiving calls (and texts!) using your own number, nobody notices the difference at all.
 
WiFi calling isn't available for prepaid accounts.

My favorite thing with UMA based WiFi calling was being in some place (like a basement or my sister's house in the middle of nowhere) where NO ONE had reception and being able to make and receive calls. Like a boss. With my like $70 Blackberry Pearl Flip. I was like, wait, why can't your iPhone do this?! Mu ha ha ha ha.

The $30 monthly 4g plan uses minutes for WiFi calling. Found that out after 3 different reps promised me it didn't. 100 mins talk time is nothing, find out the hard way.

EDIT :This feature is only available on t-mobile phones. Its a t mobile exclusive app, in the US at least and it is already available on certain t-mobile android phones like the sg2,3 and note 2....Now if Nokia could take the the idea and broaden it for all Nokia Lumias, that would be sweet

Definitely looking to hear if this uses UMA!
.
I, too, used a blackberry with UMA based wifi calling for a long time, because I was usually at home or work within Wifi range, but with poor T-Mobile signal.
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For 2 years, I suffered with a Dell Venue Pro on T-Mobile, so I finally got on board with Straight Talk and got an AT&T Lumia 920 and have been very happy with that. But for a family member (or brand new ST user), I might consider a phone like this.

I'd love it on my 920 especially if WiFi calls were not using minutes. I use a microcell today to essentially accomplish the same result.

I don't use minutes, because my calls are wifi, thru google voice. I'm using an AT&T nokia 920 on h2o wireless on prepaid. Around 8 bucks a month including modest data..

This is awsome! I am really stoked about this. Wish this feature was on the 920 but this will suffice.

Yes.  T-Mobile is losing my future business for talking me into getting the 810.  I love it, but find it offensive that they dropped support for the 810 after only months - and I am still paying for it!  It could do so much if they would just support updates.

Using the AT&T Lumia 920, I will prob never use WiFi calling due to all my rollover minutes and unlimited mobile calling. However, this seems like a good deal for a non contract phone. Makes the low-end even more affordable though

WiFi isn't just useful for not going over your minutes, but also for people in areas who might not have sufficient coverage from any carrier in their homes. Admittedly, T-Mobile customers are more likely to have this problem than AT&T or Verizon customers.

T-Mobile is moving away from UMA. This phone is not utilizing UMA, but rather an IMS (or probably an ICS) client to access the network over WiFi. Movial is the one doing the WiFi calling now.

While you're at it, check out SRVCC. I have suspicions that T-Mobile might invest in such a clever technology, but it's only an unfounded suspicion as of now.

WiFi calling using UMA used to be more desirable when minutes were more expensive. When working properly the switch over from cell coverage to WIFI was seamless like when going into the basement while on a call or driving away from the house and loosing WiFi. In my office building WiFi calls were more dependable than cell calls.
A friend at at&t told me that they have no plans of using WiFi calling. The reasoning had more to do with controlling call quality and not liking those very rare occurrences when WiFi calls can distort, delay, echo or break and disconnect.
People with weak DSL connections and large ping times had multiple issues. Some connections like satellite internet did not work at all.  If you have good fiber or cable internet it should work fine if your using T-Mobile. Your carrier allows WiFi UMA or similar technology calling or they don't. Its up to your wireless carrier if they want to allow this.
 

Yes, it currently works on my beloved HTC 8X on T-Mobile. Others have had difficulty enabling but at least one other has recently succeeded. I hope T-Mobile will make this broadly available soon, they seem to be trickling it out.
 
This editor won't allow me to post link so search Google for "Jeff Sparks Wifi Calling".  The first result will link to thread along with some screen shots.
 
The screen shots from my 8X show that the technology is IMS when you look at the installed OS components.
 
PS: Wifi Calling is very handy when you are outside of the country.
PPS: Nokia, what's a Nokia? Are those like bulky, poor substitutes for an HTC 8X? ;-) Sorry, couldn't resist. Everyone always talks about Nokia like the HTC doesn't exist.

does WiFI calling need to be supported by Carrier ? i would get this phone if it doesn't have to be supported, i have Lumia 920 with AT&T i am sure they will not be happy with this option. I wish my 920 had this option.

Yes, your carrier has to support WiFi calling like T-mobile is offering and at&t currently does not.

My wife had a blackberry with wifi calling, and when we were at home it kept pinging between cellular and wifi and dropping the call.  Only after I turned wifi calling off did her phone behave properly. 

That's just silly that it needs a master reset to enable Wi-Fi calling. Probably gets configured during initial setup, but how hard would it have been to just put the setup in the settings screen? Microsoft really needs to work on the little things.

No comment on what Microsoft does or doesn't need to do but a reset really isn't that painful - they've taken care of that.
With all your data backed up to the cloud by default, all you have to do after reset is re-enter passwords for services and re-setup your Tiles the way you like them.  All apps automagically reinstall and accounts are setup but again, without usernames and passwords.
Personally, it was a nice refresh on my phone to re-think the home screen tile layout and sort of tidy up.
Jeff

I think this kind of phone will bring Windows phone to the forefront by bring decent hardware and good OS experince to people who can't effort a hero phone or contracts that makes them affordable. Most of the prepaid Androids I have seen at this price range are junk. Am I wrong about this?

Definitely. Do you know if apps can be saved to micro sd card or can they only be stored on the internal memory?

I've seen some articles referring to the Lumia 521 as working on T-Mobile's HSPA+ 21 network, but shouldn't it work on their faster HSPA+ 42? Does anyone happen to know?

 

INTERESTING HACK FOR LUMIA 521. If you take a credit card with NFC and cut it in half (actually about 40%) and stick the side with the NFC chip under the battery (there is enough room) you can use it for mobile payment at checkout locations that are equipped