Google Fi Review 2019
We all want the perfect cell phone plan. The problem is that we each have our own definition of “perfect.”
Google Fi’s approach to solving this problem is just one—yes, one—cell phone plan that changes based on a user’s changing needs.
Google Fi’s flexible, month-to-month plan may be the answer for some discontent cellular customers. It has a solid national network, great international coverage, and it’s easy to sign up.
However, some high-data users may find that Google Fi’s cost and phone selection are deal breakers. These folks may want to check out the best traditional plans.
What you need to know about Google Fi
Google Search, Google Glass, and now Google cell phones. What’s next, Google toothbrush?
In 2015, shortly after introducing products like Google Fiber and Google Glass, Google revealed another big idea: Project Fi (which became Google Fi). Yep—Google was finally getting into the cellular carrier market.
Essentially, Google Fi is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). That’s just a fancy way of saying that Google Fi’s cell service doesn’t use its own cell towers. Instead, it plugs you into T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular’s networks across the nation to provide its service.
Since 2015, Google Fi has also expanded its service to work on all types of smartphones (more on that later).
So what benefits will you get out of Google Fi’s service? We thought you’d never ask . . .
Google Fi phone plan
One plan to rule them all . . .
Google Fi is all about flexibility, so your plan can be a month-to-month unlimited plan when you need it and a pay-per-gig plan when you don’t. To get the most out of the service, there are three main components you’ll want to understand:
- First, you pay a flat rate of $20 per line for unlimited talk and text.
- Second, you pay $10 per GB only for the data you use (calculated to the nearest 0.1 GB).
- Third, you have “bill protection,” which means you’ll never pay more than $60 for data, no matter how much you use.
All of that together in a plan for one person ends up looking about like this:
|Single line unlimited talk and text||6 GB of data||Monthly total|
Of course, you may not use the full 6 GB of data, in which case your total will be less. But if you do use the full amount, or more, that bill protection from earlier has your back.
Google Fi International coverage
Going on vacation in Mexico (que te diviertas!) or on a business trip in Denmark (held og lykke)? With Google Fi, you’ll automatically be covered in those countries and about 200 others.
There’s a bit of a catch, though. You’ll still get unlimited texts in Google Fi’s international coverage areas, but there is an extra $0.20 per minute charge for voice calls. The data rates stay exactly the same.
That’s still a pretty good deal as long as you don’t narrate every step of your vacation to Mom back home.
Overall, Google Fi is a pretty convenient deal for casual travelers. But die-hard globetrotters may find better international rates from other carriers.
Google Fi data throttling and Wi-Fi hotspots
If you’re anything like us, you sometimes find yourself in a coffee shop that has spotty Wi-Fi, and that is not okay. The obvious solution is to set up your own cellular hotspot so you can continue writing your brilliant novel (or snarky Facebook post) uninterrupted.
Thankfully, Google Fi allows mobile hotspots, unlike some other MVNOs. But before you go streaming the new season of The Walking Dead, know that Google Fi will start throttling your connection after you’ve used 15 GB.
If 15 GB just isn’t a high enough data cap for your needs, you’ll want to check out other carriers. For example, Verizon lets you have up to 20 GB of unthrottled data, and T-Mobile gives you 50 GB—yes, 50!—of unthrottled data.
Unlimited plans: Major carriers vs. Google Fi
When we looked at what it would cost to get unlimited plans from other major carriers (with an iPhone 7 Plus), we found that the four major ones all offered cheaper plans than Google Fi.
For one, none of them had the same international coverage that comes standard on Google Fi. And most had restrictions on video quality and hotspot speeds. And, of course, these plans don’t let you save when you use less data.
All in all, Google Fi’s unlimited plans are definitely more expensive than the competition. But if you want greater flexibility and international freedom, the price is probably worth it.
Google Fi family plans
I have a confession to make: I’m still on my family plan from a decade ago. (Dad, I’ll Venmo you money for the bill soon, I promise.) And I’m certainly not the only one who finds it cheaper and easier to be on a family plan.
Fortunately, adding extra lines on Google Fi isn’t difficult. You’ll pay a flat $15 per month for each line you add. And each line gets the same goodies—unlimited talk and text, per-GB rate for data, and international coverage.
Bill protection will cap your bill after a certain point (depending on how many lines you add), but keep an eye on it, because everyone on your plan shares from the same data pool.
Here’s what a hypothetical four-line family plan would look like with Google Fi.
|1st line unlimited talk and text||3 extra lines||15 GB of data||Total|
Again, Google Fi will end up on the pricier side for those who use a lot of data. All four of the major carriers have cheaper unlimited family plans.
Google Fi cell phones and devices
Google loves all phones. But it loves some more than others.
When Project Fi first launched it had one gaping problem: it worked only with the Nexus 6 phone. Thankfully, those days are over.
After Project Fi rebranded as Google Fi, the company opened up its service to almost all phones, including Android devices and iPhones (if you bring your own). But some of Google Fi’s features are still available only on devices “designed for Fi,” like the Pixel 3a and Moto G7.
These “designed for Fi” features include the ability to use over 2 million Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the country and to switch seamlessly between Google Fi’s three service networks (T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular coverage) if needed.
Meanwhile, iPhones and Android devices will be stuck using only T-Mobile’s network.
Which top phones does Google Fi offer?
- Moto G7
- Moto G6
- Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL
- Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL
Want to bring your own phone? You can check if it’s compatible on Google Fi’s website.
How good is Google Fi performance?
Three networks are better than one. Unless that one is Verizon. Then Verizon is better.
As mentioned earlier, Google Fi has a preference for certain phones (which just happen to be the ones Google makes). If you’re using those preferred phones, you can tap into several carrier networks and seamlessly transition between them.
But if you don’t have a “designed for Fi” phone, then you’re stuck on T-Mobile’s network. It’s not bad, but those in the midwestern and western states will definitely lose out (see below).
Not “designed for Fi” network coverage
“Designed for Fi” network coverage
As you can see, “designed for Fi” phones get a superior experience over more common phones. But if you’re going to pick a new phone just for better coverage, you want that service to be worth it compared to other providers too.
Check out Verizon’s coverage.
Verizon Wireless coverage map
Overall, Google Fi’s coverage is decent, but it’s not among the best coverage. Even with all three of its networks combined, Google Fi’s coverage can’t beat Verizon’s.
Google Fi’s customer service
Ironically, you might be better off just googling the solution to your problem.
It’s almost like the CEOs of all the major phone companies got together and made a bet that whoever could provide the worst customer service would get a trophy. Seriously.
Unfortunately, Google Fi doesn’t buck the trend when it comes to poor customer service. You can find a slew of complaints online, especially about payment issues, long waiting times, and inconsistent answers.
But Google Fi is a young company, so there’s still time for it to turn around and establish a positive reputation.
Recap: Is Google Fi good?
Google Fi’s plan is definitely unique, but is it revolutionary? The short answer: yes—for some people. But for others, Google Fi will definitely come up short.
- Plan: Google Fi’s single plan gives you unlimited talk and text, and just as much data as you want each month. Price will vary depending on how much you use it, so heavy users may find better deals from more traditional carriers.
- Performance: Google Fi gets good coverage from some big players like Spring and T-Mobile. But your coverage will vary depending on what phone you use and where you live.
- Customer service: How do we put this nicely? There’s, ahem, room for improvement when it comes to clear explanations and billing practices.
- Overall: If you’re a low data user or your data use fluctuates from month to month, then Google Fi’s plan may be just what you need. Others may find its “unlimited” option too expensive and its phone selection too restrictive.
Google Fi is trying to shake up the cell phone industry. Is it working? We’d love to hear what you think in the comments section.
Q: Does Google Fi have overage charges or hidden fees?
No. Thanks to the company’s bill protection policy, there are no data overage charges. There are also no activation or cancellation fees.
Q: Does Google Fi charge an activation fee?
Q: Should I get a warranty or insurance for my Google Fi phone?
Do you have a habit of dropping your phone into puddles, toilet bowls, scenic lakes, raging rivers, and other bodies of water? Then you might want to get Google Fi’s device protection plan.
Q: Does Google Fi let you bring your own phone?
It sure does. But as we mentioned, some devices (like iPhones) will have restricted service.
Q: Can I keep my phone number?
Abso-freakin’-lutely. Google Fi lets you transfer your number as long as your current carrier approves it.
Q: What’s Google Fi’s return policy?
All devices purchased from Google Fi are covered under the manufacturer’s warranty.
Q: Does Google Fi have an early termination fee?
Short answer? No. Check out Google Fi’s FAQ page for more information.
Q: Does Google Fi have a military discount?
No, Google Fi does not have a military discount.
Q: Does Google Fi have a student discount?
Sorry, my scholastic friends, no student discounts with Google Fi.