What you need to know about Google Fi
Google has recently made a bold foray into the mobile phone service market with Google Fi, officially unveiled in November 2018. The product promises to deliver Google an important role in the phone service market.
As with past Google innovations such as Google Glass and Waymo, its self-driving car project, Google has shown its ability to rethink industries beyond its core business. With Google Fi, it is making phone service less costly and more reliable. Plus, Google is finally gaining a foothold in the wireless market.
History of Google Fi
Google Fi began in 2015. The service was originally invitation-only, and only worked with Google’s Nexus smartphone. Back then, Google established Fi as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) using underlying network infrastructure from T-Mobile and Sprint. From the beginning, however, Google Fi promised to make phone service charges, particularly for data usage, more predictable and affordable than with other phone carriers. In 2018, the project achieved official status as a full-fledged Google product.
Unique Selling Proposition
Google Fi is wireless phone service as only Google, and maybe Apple, could rethink it. It is a tech product, not just a bundling of wireless service options.
The execution is true to Google form. This is not just an alternative to your ordinary phone carrier, but a phone product with its DNA deep within the tech areas where Google is so strong.
This allows the product to offer international data at domestic prices, all-new eSim technology, and automatic switching between unlimited and limited data, without billing you extra.
Google has brought the level of sophistication that existed only in the world of software apps into the real world, where now your phone carrier is as user-friendly as a top 100 Android app.
Google has just a single price for Google Fi service, set at a flat $20 per month for unlimited talk and text. This is as simple as it gets.
However, data costs extra and the price adjusts with usage. The clarity around costs and the ease with which you can avoid high charges is one area where Google Fi begins to set itself apart from traditional phone companies.
Only $20 for Unlimited Talk and Text
The $20 flat fee for unlimited talk and text is a real bargain for those who use the phone heavily. It will appeal to a wide range of users, from budget-conscious teens to the new wave of entrepreneurs doing business entirely on their phones.
Adding people to a Google Fi plan is convenient and scales well. Each additional person is charged $15 per month for unlimited talk and text.
International texts are free on the Google Fi plan, however international calls on the cell network cost around $0.20 per minute.
Cost Of Data
The cost of data with Google Fi is impressive, achieving some sensible cost reductions for heavy users. After 6 GB of data, charged at $10 per gigabyte, Google Fi’s Bill Protection feature kicks in. Beyond that, data is free and essentially unlimited.
While this works well for those who go through high volumes of data each month, those on smaller budgets may have some problems with the $10/GB cost of data up to the first 6 GB.
Costs for international roaming tend to be among the highest parts of a traditional phone plan. Google Fi solves this problem for users by giving them international roaming at no extra cost in over 200 countries.
In some of these countries, Google Fi data is delivered over fast 4G LTE networks, meaning your data experience will not degrade when you travel.
Some of the countries covered by international roaming include:
- Hong Kong
Even off-the-beaten-path destinations like Afghanistan are covered under this international roaming plan.
Reliability of Google Fi
Google Fi offers a premium level experience, and reliability is one of its strengths. Getting onto the network is fairly easy. You need to download the Google Fi app (available for Android or iOS) and configure your phone to use the network.
Once you’ve activated the service, you will be billed month to month, without need for a long-term contract. This makes it easy to test the service in case you just want to try it out first.
Service coverage for Google Fi users includes 3 mobile networks that each transmit at 4G LTE speeds. In addition, Google Fi has 2 million Wi-Fi hotspots right across the country, ensuring easy access to high speed internet on the go.
A coverage map from Google Fi will let you type in your ZIP code to check the availability and quality of service coverage. Conditions are best on both coasts and much of the South, where 4G LTE speeds are most prevalent. Parts of the Midwest and North-West have somewhat worse service.
Since Google Fi operates as an MVNO, it will improve your experience where network coverage is concerned.
For Fi-optimized phones, Google Fi automatically switches between Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular boosters at any time depending on which network is the fastest in that location. This ensures that you always experience optimized internet and phone network speeds.
All the switching takes place behind the scenes, resulting in a smooth experience.
Phones that are not optimized for Google Fi’s advanced switching features will have their data routed through T-Mobile’s wireless network, as well as the available network of hotspots.
Google Fi used to support very few phones, but now the service has been upgraded to support nearly all Android phones and iPhones. This makes it possible to use it with your favorite phone.
Some devices, however, work better and support more features of Google Fi than others. You can check if your existing phone will work with Google Fi on the interactive Compatibility Checker.
Phones Designed for Google Fi
Google has partnered with device manufacturers to optimize certain phones for the Google Fi experience. If you intend to use Google Fi as your primary phone plan for the long term, it’s probably best to pick up one of the Google Fi-optimized devices. These include the Pixel 2, Pixel 3, Pixel 3XL, Moto G6, and LG G7 ThinQ.
Why You Want to be On Google Fi
While Google Fi’s promised cost savings do not begin to kick in until you are making heavy use of the network, there is plenty here for heavy mobile users. The network switching features in supported Google Fi phones makes this phone service a winner in the reliability department. You get 4G LTE speeds across three networks countrywide, along with millions of high speed Wi-Fi hotspots. Should you desire to travel internationally with your phone, this is where Google Fi’s premium features will really differentiate the service from other domestic careers. You get to travel the world, talk, and surf. Most of all, you enjoy these benefits largely at the same, lower rates you enjoy back at home.
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