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Google Fi

As some of you know I have been a big advocate of Project Fi over the years, I think it is by far the simplest and best option for Americans that also travel abroad. Google has recently renamed the service Google Fi and made some big changes, namely allowing you to bring and use many popular phones (including iPhones) on their plan. Previously you had to choose from one of about a half dozen compatible phones, which seemed to be an impediment for some.

I've spent many months abroad using Fi. When you can use your phone abroad the way you do in the US, it changes and enriches the way you travel - even just having an always working map is huge. Using uber or the local taxi app, many tourist sites have their own apps and online guides that only work on smart phones, there are podcasts and walking tours available. It really brings the spontaneity back in to traveling.

On multi-month trips I don't turn data off, I text whenever needed, browse the web constantly (Fi has high speed data in 140+ countries for the same price as the US), call people whenever I want and my typical bill is probably $45 and my largest was $60 for a month.

  • No contract. To me this is huge
  • $20 unlimited calling in the US. Uses Tmobile, US Cellular and Sprint towers in the US.
  • Unlimited texts anywhere in the world
  • Automatic use of VPN on wifi
  • High speed internet is $10 per GB anywhere in the world (yes, it's high speed internationally as well). This has worked literally everywhere for me. I recently drove 4 hours across the desert in Oman streaming Omar Souleyman remixes on Spotify with no loss of signal.
  • Data charges are capped at $60 - basically an unlimited plan even internationally
  • 20c/ min international calls. Which you barely use with Skype, Viber, Whatsapp etc.
  • The very newest and most secure version on Android (at least on Google's phones)

No need to turn off data when abroad. No need to call the phone overlords and ask to turn on the special rip off plan so you don't get the really, really rip off rates applied. No need to worry that you are roaming on an unsupported network. It just works.

Posted by
11683 posts

Yep. I use it on my iPad and it is great.

Sounds like the coverage may be more complete abroad than in the US. On our drive between Seattle and San Francisco over Thanksgiving, there were stretches of road in Northern California ( basically up in the redwoods) and southern Oregon ( the hilly section) where there was no service. But no ATT or other service there either.

Posted by
1324 posts

I am also a Fi advocate.

But I didn't have coverage in most parts of Juneau, Alaska, nor on Rapa Nui. And it was spotty in Tepoztlan, Mexico.

Posted by
4695 posts

Lately I'm using about 2GB/month of data at home. So Google Fi would cost me $40/month at home. I can get unlimited calling for $15/month to $20/month and 2GB/month data with MNVOs like Mint Mobile and Tello. No, they don't have international roaming - but I don't travel that much. My Dutch Vodafone SIM has worked well for me for my trips to Europe. Because I use Google Voice at home anyway, I can already use my regular US number when abroad (with Google Hangouts) no matter what SIM I have in the phone. In fact, sometimes I use Hangouts at home anyway.

But if you will be overseas on and off for an extended period? Sure, I can see how Google Fi is a much better deal than say Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, or Sprint. (T-Mobile and Sprint do offer free international roaming data but it's only 2G speeds, and calls are 20-25cents/min.)

Posted by
31053 posts

Kaeleku,

It's great to hear that they've finally opened Fi up to a wider range of phones, and especially iPhones. It looks like the iOS version is still in Beta so there may be a few bugs to be worked out. The large cell networks probably won't be happy though. If Fi is using the infrastructure of T-Mobile and other networks, I assume they're operating as an MVNO?

Perhaps one day they will offer service to those of us that live north of the 49th, but not likely as the "big three" will probably not want the competition.

Posted by
1445 posts

Thanks, good article you posted.

... it doesn’t matter where you are on the planet, the
price is the same. Use your data in Manhattan or Mumbai, and it’s the
same $10 per gigabyte. ... When I compare this plan
to all those years when AT&T considered Canada to be as exotic as Mars
and priced accordingly, I weep with joy.

Me too.

It’s also a nice change from
landing in a country and having to find a kiosk to buy a domestic SIM
for my phone.

Posted by
330 posts

it sounds fantastic but not a huge fan of Google Facebook etc and their notorious privacy violations. So I hate to give them business but this might be worth it.

Ihave a Verizon plan and it looks like most of their phones can be changed over to this. I just have to get through my contract on a few of our phones but I might be able to switch a few of them right away and test it out

Posted by
330 posts

As I just dug into this a little bit it appears that if you do not have a Google phone you do not get the automatic switching of network coverage to maximize which network is the best one for you depending on where you are at at the time.

based on what I've read so far it seems like that's one huge advantage with this plan so you would need to go out and buy a Google phone for that.

Posted by
4695 posts

Well, you can pretend Google Fi works only on T-Mobile and just use it that way and not worry about the network switching. is it still better for you? Might be, if the flexible data pricing and seamless international use is a better fit for you.

Posted by
1445 posts

I can't speak to the network stuff because I use a Fi phone. I agree with Andrew ... despite that limitation it probably works as well or better than other single network plans, but again, faster and cheaper.

On the privacy comment, sounds defeatist but I guess I gave up believing anything is private on an electronic device a long time ago. So while I see how some people could be bothered for example by Google's location history, and the way you can literally go back months or years and see where you were, where you ate, where you slept, what pictures you took etc, to me that is a nice feature. As I have always assumed someone else (big tech, advertisers, government etc) has access to that data anyway, but at least now I have it too, and have a nice UI to access it with.

Posted by
330 posts

I left us cellular about 5 yrs ago after almost 20 yrs with them. I live in a rural area where us cellular works fantastic. But I travel a lot and once my kids moved off to college and beyond and are in areas that us Cellular stinks I moved to Verizon. So I gave up some solid rural coverage. It isn't the end of the world but driving from small town to small town is certainly not as well covered for me now. But it was Terrible for the kids.

I don't know the difference between TMobile and Verizon coverage. The maps look somewhat decent but always hard to know for sure.

I do love the idea of being able to automatically switch from us cellular to T-Mobile automatically.

I will keep researching and probably start with moving 2 of our phones (wife and son) since they are out of contract and test drive it by getting them the Google fi plan on their current phones and then get them Google phones when theirs die.

Posted by
4695 posts

FYI, right now Google Fi is offering the Moto X4 Android for $149 (with activation) plus a $50 Google Fi credit.

I am not on Google Fi, but I just bought a Moto X4 (fully unlocked - I paid $165), and it is quite a decent phone for the money. Mine (like this one) has 32GB of built-in flash storage (expand to up to 2TB with a memory card; realistically 128GB or 256GB for an affordable card at the moment) and 3GB of RAM. Pretty snappy little phone. My biggest complaint is that it feels a bit...heavy? It has a glass back, something I didn't really want. Camera is definitely an improvement over the Moto E4 I upgraded from. In fact, there are two front cameras, one "regular" one wide angle.

Posted by
1445 posts

That's a good price ... its the one I use and its great. But you are right, the glass back is a fail. In fact I was on a call a few months ago and got attacked by a wasp or hornet or something - stung me on the hand holding my phone - and I dropped it on the pavement and the back glass cracked. I just use electrical tape on it but yeah, classic example of poor industrial design. No idea why companies are creating glass-backed phones.

Posted by
4695 posts

I think the glass is supposed to be an appearance upgrade. Makes it look like a more expensive phone. But I greatly prefer the plastic back of my old Moto E4 (which I didn't need to replace yet - but gave it to Mom).

Posted by
31053 posts

"I think the glass is supposed to be an appearance upgrade."

Actually there's a more practical reason for using a glass back on cell phones and other devices - it facilitates the use of inductive charging. That's going to become a lot more common in the coming years.

Those using a phone with a glass back should consider using a robust case such as an Otterbox.

Posted by
4695 posts

That's true about the glass in other phones. But the Moto X4 does not support inductive charging. It's purely glass for the aesthetics, perhaps so it will resemble the more expensive phone by comparison.