Quick disclaimer: this is going to be a biased article because I use this service for my personal cell phone and love it. That being said, I have no ties to Google and although I wish they were paying me, that is not the case.
What is Project Fi?
In the not-so-distant past, the cellular market was a world full of contracts, high prices, and family plans, so what does Google do? Come up with a disruptive service to compete with the cellular giants, of course! Project Fi is a cellular service created by Google to provide great cell service at an extremely reasonable price. When Google first came out with this service, the only way to sign up was to request an invitation and wait as they did with Google+, but now it is open to anyone with a supported phone.
Sorry, Apple fans, but as you could’ve guessed this service is only available on Android devices right now. What’s even worse is that (as of writing this) Project Fi is only available on Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, and Nexus 6 phones. When I signed up for Project Fi I was ready for a new phone anyways, so I went ahead and purchased a Nexus 6P and absolutely love it, but I can understand people wanting to keep their phone and not have to spend a few hundred dollars. On the Project Fi FAQ page, it states the above phones “are the first smartphones that support our network of networks. They work with the Project Fi SIM card, which supports multiple cellular networks, and have a state-of-the-art cellular radio tuned to work across network types.”1 Hopefully, in the near future phone makers will design their phones to work with Google’s network of networks.
Carriers and Coverage
Project Fi boasts a network of networks because their technology allows them to switch you between partnered carriers to provide the best service. Currently, Google has partnered with Sprint and T-Mobile to provide super fast 4G LTE service where available and the fastest network type in your area (3G or 2G) if 4G LTE is not available. This means that when you are traveling, if you leave Sprint 4G LTE coverage and move into T-Mobile’s 4G LTE coverage, you’ll maintain your high-speed connection throughout. You can check out Project Fi’s coverage in your area here.
Google has coupled its network of networks with the ability to make calls over WiFi, which means that you can have a great quality conversation out in the boonies so long as you can connect to a decent WiFi network. They also boast that your call will seamlessly transfer between WiFi and cellular network when one coverage becomes faster than the other. I can say that I have never noticed a difference in call quality when leaving or joining a WiFi network.
One of the best things about Project Fi is its simple and very affordable pricing structure. This was probably about 75% of the reason I switched from my previous carrier to Project Fi. I went from paying over $100 every month for the same features I get now for less that $40! I am almost always on WiFi and never stream anything when I’m not, so you’ll notice that my data usage is probably lower than a lot of people’s. I pay for unlimited talk and text (unlimited international texts) and two gigabytes of cellular data every month.
Here’s how Project Fi’s pricing structure works. Everyone pays $20 for unlimited talk and text and then you pay $10 per gigabyte of cellular data you want to budget yourself. Now for the best part, if you don’t use all of your data for this month, you’ll be credited for next month’s bill about one cent for every MB you didn’t use. The same applies if you go over your data budget, you just pay for the coverage (at the same rate) on your next bill. Project Fi has no contracts, so you just pay for each month upfront. You could think of your first payment as an estimated down payment, and every bill after that would be based on the data you used that month. In my case, my first bill was $40, and the first month I used 1.5 GB of my 2 GB budget, so I only paid $35 on my next bill. If I were to ever cancel my service, they’d either credit me back what I didn’t use or charge me for whatever I went over that month.
Below is my bill for the month between April 6 and May 6. My previous balance was zero dollars because I had already paid my last bill. In green, you can see that I have been credited $11.57 toward this bill because I didn’t use 1.157 GB of my 2 GB budget. Fi Basics (unlimited talk and text) cost me $20, my 2 GB budget for the upcoming month cost me $20, and the government got their $4.09 out of me for taxes. This brings my bill to a whopping $32.52, I’ll take that any day!
Project Fi has started offering data-only SIM cards that you can put into devices other than your phone. You can add up to nine data-only SIM cards to your plan and the data those devices use will just come out of your monthly data budget like it does your phone. Google has verified that the following devices are compatible with the data-only SIM cards, but I suspect there are many more that will work as well: Nexus 7, Nexus 9, iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 4, iPad Pro, Galaxy Tab S, and the three phone models supported by Project Fi, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6, and Nexus 6P. This offers a great alternative for the people who not only have cell service with another carrier, but also data plans for additional devices through those carriers.
If your contract with your current provider is coming to an end or you think it’d be worth paying the early termination fees (like I did), seriously consider Project Fi. Again, I get nothing out of recommending them except for the satisfaction of helping people get away from the cell service giants, their outrageous prices, and their damn contracts!