Thoughts on Google Fi

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Should you switch to Google Fi now that it works on both Android and iPhone?

It’s an enticing option: Pay a minimum of $20* a month and a maximum of $80* a month for “unlimited*” <cough cough> phone*, text*, and data*, plus get free data roaming in 200+ countries*.

Let’s go through some of those footnotes.

First, understand that Google Fi is not the same on all devices. On a handful of devices, Google Fi actually uses multiple cellular networks (T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular). That’s actually a very compelling feature. The phone supposedly evaluate for the strongest signal (Wi-Fi included) and uses that wireless path. On other devices, such as iPhones, it’s only one carrier (T-Mobile). Of course, that’s not the same as signing up with T-Mobile. As an MVNO Google changes things like the class of service and the rates. Here, I will evaluate the single-carrier option with a focus on the rates.

You need to think about Voice & Text as one set of rules, and Data as a different set of rules:

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Voice & Texting:
The $20 minimum monthly charge gets you:

  • Unlimited US domestic phone calls
  • Unlimited text messaging*
  • Use of the T-Mobile network within the United States
  • Only for Android users you can also use the Sprint network. iPhone users cannot use the Sprint network.

What you don’t get is:

  • Phone calls from the US to other countries. Those typically cost 1~10 cents a minute, which is pretty reasonable.
  • Phone calls while in other countries. Those cost 20-cents a minute.
  • Use of the Sprint network if you are an iPhone user.
  • Nobody can use the AT&T network within the US.
  • Visual Voice Mail is not available for iPhone users.

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Data
In addition to the $20 monthly fee you also pay for data:

  • You will be billed $10 per gigabyte for data you use in any of 200+ countries.
  • This amount is capped at $60 per month (so your monthly bill would be a maximum of $80).
  • You are limited* to a maximum of 15 GB of data for the month.

What you don’t get is:
Once your data usage goes to 15 GB, speed will slow to 256 kilobits. This is fast enough for email, but your days of movie watching, video calls, and fast tethering will be over.

But you have a choice:

  • If you are willing to eliminate the $60 cap/maximum, and you are willing to pay $90 to get to the 15 GB amount (which would have been free if you accepted the cap) then you may continue to pay $10 per gigabyte and have all the high speed data you want. That is, you will pay $170 a month for the first 15 GB and then continue to pay $10 per gigabyte and continue to get high speed data with no limit.

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So who is this a good deal for?

It’s a great deal for anybody who can:

  • Live with a 15 GB data cap, or
  • You don’t need high speed data for movies, video calls, or tethering.
  • Live with the T-Mobile network.

It’s not a great plan for you if:

  • You need the Verizon or AT&T network to get coverage.
  • You need more than 15 GB of data AND watch movies, do video calls, or tether a laptop.

For customers who are already on the T-Mobile network it seems to be a “no brainer” to switch to Fi.

Since T-Mobile doesn’t work well at my home, it’s not a good deal for me.

Colin Berkshire