Google Fi Is Now Even Better (And It Was Already The Best)

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Google Fi has just announced a tremendous improvement to their international service. Beginning today, Project Fi users will receive the highest speeds available on the network, regardless of where they are in the world.

There has been some confusion about the available speeds in the comment sections of earlier posts, so this is perhaps a good time to clarify. Cell phone providers have roaming agreements with other networks, and are able to control both what is accessed, and what speeds are delivered to customers. That’s how T-Mobile has been able to give their customers unlimited 4G LTE data while in Europe this summer, for example, but generally only promises 2G.

Going forward, Google Fi is removing all those limits for their customers. Depending on the network you’re connecting to (and the associated roaming agreements), this could still mean 2G speeds. But if 3G or 4G/LTE are available, you’ll have unbridled access.

In practice, I haven’t experienced speed throttling with Google Fi (though I know others have), but it’s nice that they’re making this official.

Google-Fi-Unlimited

Beyond that, Google has added Three as a roaming partner, which should provide more connection options and faster speeds.

This is a great improvement, and hopefully will push T-Mobile to remove their limits as well. Maybe the other carriers will even catch on!

Even better, Google is offering $150 off the purchase of a Nexus phone, so this is a pretty good time to switch if you’ve been on the fence.

Google Fi or TMobile?

I am incredibly evangelical about Google Fi at the moment, and think it’s the hands-down best phone plan for high-frequency international travelers.

Project-Fi-Destinations

We’re saving well over $800 this year in my house by switching to Google Fi.

  • I love the pay-as-you-go pricing, and the flexibility that provides
  • The additional data-only SIM cards are great for tablets, back-up phones, and even family when traveling

At the same time, I actively campaigned for Ben to get T-Mobile. Why?

  • Ben is on a family plan with his parents, and the pricing on T-Mobile is more competitive when you’re paying for multiple people with varying data needs
  • The tie-up between T-Mobile and Gogo is super convenient for those who don’t travel enough to justify a monthly Gogo pass, so is perfect for Ben’s parents
  • T-Mobile has storefronts, and Ben is….well, it’s better for me if he can go and talk to the nice people at the phone store versus Tiffany Tech Support, let’s put it that way

I would probably send my mom to T-Mobile for similar reasons. I’m sending my cousin Heather to Google Fi.

Either way you’ll be able to play Pokémon Go while traveling internationally, which is all that really matters. 😉

Buying a Google Fi phone

Unofficially, Google Fi will work just fine with most unlocked smartphones, so committed iPhone users can still (unofficially) use the service.

You still need a Nexus phone to activate Google Fi, however, and you can pick up an older model phone fairly inexpensively. If you’re interested in the Nexus 5X or 32GB Nexus 6P phones, you’re better off in terms of dollars if you buy those directly from Google.

Project-Fi-Review-06

The higher-end Nexus phones are actually on sale at Amazon today as part of PrimeDay, so if you’re considering a new Android phone (or are OS-agnostic), now is a great time to switch.

Pick up some Amazon gift cards at an office supply store for 5x points on your Ink cards, combine with the $10 bonus on $50 Amazon gift cards, and you have a pretty compelling deal.

Bottom line

Having actual competition between cell phone companies in the US is fantastic. The expansion of international coverage is great (and overdue), so there’s no longer a reason to deal with bad phone plans when you’re traveling.

If you’ve been considering Google Fi, and want a 6P, I’d jump on the Amazon deal today. The discounts through Google are valid through August 11th.

Has anyone else switched to Google Fi? Will this push you to change carriers?

Comments

  1. Can you turn the service on and off? I have unlimited domestic data with Verizon, so want to keep that line active and going but would love to have this for when I’m traveling internationally (and then turn it off for the times I’m home).

    Any do this or have recommendations? Thanks.

  2. It’s still more than what we’re paying domestically, and we don’t travel enough internationally to make it worthwhile. Undoubtedly good for others though.

  3. @tiffany do you use a lot of streaming data on your Fi phone? My T-Mobile account tells me that I use very little data, which would imply big savings if I switched to Fi, and the global fastest-speed access is huge. But I also stream a lot on my phone (YouTube, Netflix, Spotify, Pandora, etc.) and T-Mobile and the other big carriers who advertise “Free Streaming” may not take that into account when calculating my data usage. Meaning T-Mobile underestimates my raw data usage, and therefore I would over-estimate my savings for switching to Fi.

  4. I switched from AT&T to Project Fi about 4 months ago. I was using an iPhone 6 Plus with AT&T and bought a Nexus 5X when I switched to Project Fi. I am a flight attendant with a legacy US carrier and fly international as well as domestic. Most of my international flying has been to South America, Central America, Mexico, and Canada. Project Fi has been great for saving money on a month to month basis.

    What is great about Project Fi is the international data. I do not make many phone calls when I am out of the country so the $0.20/minute does not bother me too much. The data price being the same as it is when I am in the United States is the main selling point for me. I use Google Maps when out and about in a foreign city.

    My biggest issue is when I am at home in the US. Day to day phone calls or cell service is poor. I will be on a phone call with LTE T-Mobile service, and then the call will drop because it switches to Sprint mid-call and therefore dropping the call.

    Another drawback that I have is the phone. The Nexus 5X is a good phone and I don’t mind Android, but for me, it doesn’t measure up to my iPhone. I miss the iPhone, especially iMessages. I have many other Apple products so I am in the Apple ecosystem.

    I only use an average of 1GB of data a month, so the pricing aspect of Project Fi is great for me. Some months I use up to 3 GB and others I use less than 1 GB so the pricing plan of getting money back for unused data and not being penalized if you go over works well.

    Overall, Project Fi is a great idea, and a great thing to have when traveling internationally, but when it comes to day to day operation in the United States, it does not perform with the service and coverage I had with AT&T.

  5. I am very interested in switching if I can unofficially use my Iphone. How does that work exactly? Buy a cheap Nexus phone, activate the service then put the sim into my Iphone?. Can I resell the Nexus phone after that?

  6. the best phone plan is my companys global phone. No limits anywhere in the world. Except for pidgeon-fi networks

    OK ok, I am extremely responsible and use it as required.

    So thanks for this news. Use it before the EU bureaucrat losers attack and ban it!

  7. @ Daniel — I think some people have done that, though Fi does have a rule that you’re supposed to use it “primarily” in the US.

    From recent experience (analyzing plans for both Ben and I), your unlimited domestic data plan might not be that good of a deal. Crunch the numbers, as you might not be using as much data as you think, and could save quite a bit by switching up your plan.

  8. @ Paul — Tons of Spotify and Google Play, not as much video. But I use my phone as a hotspot nearly every day, and while you obviously can chew through data more quickly on a laptop, I’m still saving overall.

    If you’re not under contract with T-Mobile, it might be worth trying Fi. If you are using more data than you think, and Fi ends up not being a great value, you should be able to offload the phone and switch back to T-Mobile fairly easily.

  9. @ Andrew — I’m not saying you can officially use your iPhone, but if it’s unlocked…

    The “downside” to using a non-Nexus phone would be that you’re always on T-Mobile domestically, and wouldn’t be switching providers.

  10. @ Nathan — Yep. I think you might have to adjust the APN settings too, there are some detailed posts out there for those who want to try it.

    I can’t confirm the part about reselling the phone; I’ve heard both, so maybe someone else can chime in.

  11. @Tiffany: I get your enthusiasm for Project Fi but I don’t agree it is the best. Unless your life happens only around big metropolitan areas T-Mobile us useless. I live in the US MidWest and if you go out of the big cities by couple miles you are out of luck. Thus, unless T-Mobile decides to invest outside the big cities it won’t be an option for me since I travel across the country and many times in small cities. Also, the fact that this is not officially approved to use with an iPhone is a deal breaker to me. Yes, people like Android but I like Apple and have been an iPhone owner for many years and have no intention to move. Thus, it has to work on an iPhone otherwise it won’t work for me.

  12. Aside from the fastest international data offer Google Fi is definitely not better than T-Mobile. Here domestically T-Mobile doesn’t charge you for music and video streaming data, Google Fi does, so unless you only use less than 3GBs per month grand total then Google Fi will actually cost you more than T-Mobile. I have unlimited data for one line and only pay $56 a month with taxes and fees included.

  13. It will be interesting to see if the major carriers follow T-Mobile’s lead and recognize there is a small but worthwhile market for international travelers and respond. In this new era of unlocked phones and carrier “free agency” I believe it will happen soon. And it’s long overdue.

  14. Harbor Mobile was the best choice last year when they were still activating T-Mobile lines. $33/month for 2.5GB of data and all the international roaming, music streaming, etc. features of T-Mobile is impossible to beat by Google Fi. They will have to pry this plan out of hands before I give it up. If that happens, I think Google Fi is a great alternative if I can keep my iPhone on it.

  15. For Project Fi, I don’t think you can use phones outside of the designated Nexus phones. The phones are programmed specifically for the Project Fi technology. Even if you have an unlocked iPhone, it will not be compatible with the Fi network. There are a ton of information online for Project Fi, so give it a whirl. I’ve been using Project Fi for the past 5 months, so far no major complaint besides having to give up on my iPhone. Internationally I’ve used it in Japan and China (limited use only in both places). Will test it out in Greece in 2 months. The international data connectivity is kinda hit or miss. I had to manually configure the network connection after a week of seamless use in Shanghai. It’s not perfect but still a great option for having data usage overseas. When you’re connected to wifi, you could call/text U.S. numbers without paying roaming fees even if you’re overseas. That’s by far one of my favorite Project Fi feature.

  16. @Sally – I just used Fi in Greece – it worked like a charm – actually him over 6mb/s download speeds – very fast. And yes, it will work in your iphone overseas – I had both my nexus 5x and iphone in greece (and other places in Europe) – i pulled out the SIM of the nexus and put it in my iphone 6S to test it out and was able to call home with no trouble.

  17. I just used Project Fi on my iPhone 6 for a month. I bought a nexus from Best Buy, activated the SIM, and returned the nexus. I had flawless LTE in LA, Dallas, and all over Australia. Voicemail doesn’t work and iMessage was sent from my Apple ID instead of my phone number, but everything else worked as normal. I would absolutely keep Project Fi if the service in my hometown was better. I live in rural Eastern North Carolina and the service was hit or miss. It would be fine on the Nexus device because the network would switch between T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular, but I was stuck on just T-Mobile since I’m on an iPhone. I switched back to Verizon for that reason yesterday.

    I’m holding onto the Project Fi SIM card for future trips. You can pause the service whenever and unpause when you need it. I absolutely recommend Project Fi for any international travel, regardless of your device. No headache. Easy to manage and maintain. And you CAN make it work on iPhone. Like I said, my only reason for switching back to Verizon is T-Mobile’s spotty coverage in my area. If that ever improves, I’ll be back on Project Fi in a heartbeat.

  18. If in a given month I were to not use the sim at all, I’d pay get a 10 dollar credit which would go against the 30 the next month?

  19. Google Fi is not perfect by any means, but I love the concept and also using it. I have had it for six months and have been through 15 countries (developed and undeveloped) with the service. Fi has worked in about 70% of the countries I have been to and it can obviously be frustrating at times. With that being said, in developed countries, it generally works well and having access to maps, e-mail, and rating websites and blogs when you’re traveling is an amazing concept and extremely convenient!

  20. Currently switching from Republic Wireless to Google fi. I have liked Republic Wireless, but being limited to VOIP calling abroad is the reason for the switch.

  21. “Unofficially, Google Fi will work just fine with most unlocked smartphones, so committed iPhone users can still (unofficially) use the service.”

    Officially, the terms of use state they can close the accounts of any user who isn’t using a supported device. There are no corroborated reports of this happening to people using iPhones on Fi.

    Yet.

  22. I have used my project Fi sim in an iPhone 6s plus and it works fine. But I hate iPhones so it’s holding my number active so I can use my Nexus on Verizon. I have two other numbers so I don’t really use it but speedtest looks good and the voice is good. You could use iMessage but I’m not wasting my data on stupid text messages like most apple people do. I’m gonna get the pixel so I can switch the sim out of my place holder.

  23. I recently switch from Verizon to Google fi because I live in an old mobile home that is basically a metal frame building. I never could get a signal in or out unless I stood on my porch, now with Google Fi, I am actually able to make a phone call from anywhere inside my little trailer. Thank you Google. I’m a happy camper!

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