Should you switch to Google Fi?
I have been using Google Fi exclusively as my main carrier since May, 2019. I’m going to share with you my experiences with this service, both the good and the bad.
But first, what exactly is Google Fi?
Google Fi is an MVNO(Mobile Virtual Network Operator) run and operated by Google.
Google partners with T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular to provide cellular connectivity to their customers. Google’s hook for this particular service is that phones that are “designed for Fi”, in other words phones that are built for use with Google Fi, will automatically switch between using T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular based on geographical location, network quality, and signal strength. Pretty cool concept, right? If you are not using a “designed for Fi” device then you will be stuck using T-Mobile all of the time.
You can read more about how this works on Google Fi’s FAQ page.
First off, let’s talk pricing since that is what most of you probably care about the most. Google Fi has service plans: Flexible and Unlimited.
The Flexible plan is uses a “pay for what you use” pricing structure with a base cost per line of $20, which goes down the more lines that you have. You pay $10 per gigabyte of data that you use that month, so this means that you pay for your service at the end of the month, instead of at the beginning like traditional carrier plans. Everyone on your plan shares a data pool. This means that your monthly service costs might be very small, if you don’t use much data, or not much different then a traditional carrier if you use quite a bit of data. The good news is that your monthly cost is capped based on the number of lines on your plan, so for single plans you will never pay for more then $60 for data in a month, but you can use more then that. Your data cap before being throttled depends on your number of active service lines.
The Unlimited plan is, well… Unlimited. You pay $70 per line, which also goes down the more lines that you have, for unlimited data up to 22GB per person, per per month. At which point your speed will be throttled, but you will not be charged additional fees.
So, all that said, the pricing structure isn’t to bad
The Good: What Google Fi does right
Other then the ability to utilize multiple carriers networks with one plan, Google Fi has some very specific features that are unique, and you won’t likely won’t find these anywhere else.
Google Hangouts Integration. This is one of my favorite features of Google Fi. You can have your calls, texts, and voicemail go through the Google Hangouts messaging service, which means you can answer calls and texts through any computer that you can log in to your Google account on. You’re phone does not have to be with you for this to work, which is tremendous. If you leave your phone at home and need to communicate with someone, you can log in to your Google account and open Hangouts and do whatever it is that you need to do.
That being said, Google is planning to discontinue Hangouts in the future, and as of now there is no official statement on how, or if, this functionality will be migrated to a different Google service.
International Coverage. Another truly amazing thing is that Google has partnered with many international carriers so that your Google Fi service will work in other countries without paying extreme amounts of money for data. This is an absolutely amazing feature if you often travel abroad.
You can learn more about this here.
Free Data Only SIM Cards are offered at no additional charge for all Google Fi subscribers. This means that you can add an iPad, Microsoft Surface, or any other LTE enabled device to your plan without paying anything additional except for the data that is used, which is billed against your current data pool for that month. For example, I have an extra phone that I use with a Google Fi Data Only SIM in addition to my main device, which is a Google Pixel running Android. This allows me to both have a backup device, and stay up to date with Apple Products.
There is a limit to the number of Data Only SIM cards that you can have on your account, and you can read more about that here.
The Bad: What Google Fi could do better
In my opinion, there are only two things that Google could improve upon with Google Fi.
The main one would be to make the service cheaper. Right now with the Flexible plan, if you are paying for just a single line, you are paying $20 per month base, plus $10 per GB of data used, up to 6GB or $60. That means that your maximum bill could end up being $80 per month, which is around the price of the main carriers Unlimited plans. The upside, of course, is that your bill could be significantly less if you don’t use that much data. However, it’s getting harder and harder to use less data on your mobile phone as internet services evolve and become more powerful. With the Unlimited plan, if you are paying for just a single line, you are paying $70 per month for Unlimited everything, which is the same price as most carriers base Unlimited plan. So, unless the features of Google Fi are compelling enough, there is no reason to use Google Fi instead of one of the major carriers.
This is especially true because of the networking switching that we discussed earlier in this article. Since Google Fi can switch between three different major U.S. carriers, you can potentially have fantastic service almost everywhere. However, this is not always the case. Your phone can only switch carriers if you are on a “designed for Fi” device, and if certain criteria are met. What this means, is that even if your data is incredibly slow, or the carrier you are currently locked on to is having issues, your phone may not switch to another one if you technically have good signal on your currently utilized carrier. So this can mean that if you rely on your phone working all of the time without hitch, you sometimes have to manually switch which carrier your phone is connected to. This is easily done using different apps on the Google Play Store. However, it’s not ideal and can often be very irritating.
Also, I have heard that Google Fi’s support isn’t very good. However, I cannot comment on this first hand as I have not yet actually had to content the support department. I have not had an issue with my service yet.
At the end of the day, would I recommend Google Fi?
Yes! I would recommend Google Fi. Even with Google Fi’s faults and annoyances the service has, at least for me, been very good. Since there is no fee to transfer your number to Google Fi, and no fee to cancel service, I think that it is worth giving the service a try if it is something that interests you.
If you have more questions about Google Fi don’t hesitate to contact us.