The big cellular providers don't really move with the times as fast as we would like. That's usually because there's profit to be made dragging their heels.
A good example is texting. For years, the providers were charging customers an arm and a leg for texting plans when the feature cost them essentially nothing to provide.
Thankfully, the rise of smartphones and free texting apps finally made providers move to unlimited texting plans. Click here for other ways to save money on your cellular bill.
Another thing carriers have been slow to adopt is Wi-Fi. There have been apps that make calls and send texts over Wi-Fi for years, but carriers still require you to use a cellular connection. And if you've ever run out of cell minutes on your monthly plan, you know how valuable every single second can be.
Enter T-Mobile with its new Wi-Fi Calling feature. Starting today, any phone you buy from T-Mobile will be able to make calls and send texts over Wi-Fi.
If you don't want to upgrade your phone, talk to a T-Mobile rep about adding Wi-Fi Calling to your existing phone.
Wi-Fi Calling means if you're in a place with no cellular connection - or even a poor signal - you can still call or text as long as there's an open Wi-Fi network. I know several T-Mobile users who have trouble with reception in their homes or offices who are going to be thrilled.
Sure, you can already do the same thing with the Skype app and others, but with Wi-Fi Calling, you can use your regular phone number. Plus, it works like making and receiving normal calls and texts so you don't have to mess with a third-party app.
Of course, this isn't just a benevolent gift on T-Mobile's part. True, it isn't charging extra for the feature - as long as you have a T-Mobile plan - but there are other benefits for the provider.
First, it's a marketing bullet point the other carriers don't have yet. And believe me, T-Mobile is playing it up.
Second, it adds to the "for the people" image T-Mobile is trying to build.
Third, and most important, T-Mobile's network has never been as extensive as Verizon and AT&T, which leaves it at a disadvantage. With Wi-Fi Calling, suddenly the company can be anywhere there's a Wi-Fi hotspot.
T-Mobile's tagline for the feature is, "It's like adding millions of towers to your network in a single day." What T-Mobile is really saying is, "Now we don't have to spend a fortune adding real towers to our network."
Still, whatever the reason, it is a step in the right direction for carriers. Verizon is making a similar good step with its upcoming VoLTE technology - learn how that will change voice calls over cellular.
If you don't have Wi-Fi in your home but want it, T-Mobile is also selling the $25 T-Mobile Personal Cellspot. However, if you have a documented history of problems with T-Mobile's coverage, I'm betting you can talk T-Mobile customer service into sending you one for free.