Update (November 2018): Project Fi is now called Google Fi and supports iPhones (beta). Some additional setup is required, but definitely easier than the hustle described below :)
Project Fi is a virtual mobile network operator by Google. I became their customer in July 2016 (switched over from AT&T). Fi’s superpower is the dynamic switching between different cellular networks (Sprint, T-mobile, and U.S. Cellular) based on the signal strength and a single price tag of $10 per 1 GB for all domestic and international data.
(+) Low price if you have WiFi at home & work
(+) Godsend for traveling
(+) Contract free
(–) Requires new(ish) Android device to support all features
Quality of service
Coverage was pretty steady in the city (San Francisco, Seattle) and also the suburbs. I don’t remember any significant signal strength loss, but that might be also to close vicinity to the Google HQ. Anyhow before considering the service check their coverage.
International coverage & data was an amazing experience. Everything worked as advertised, I was really nicely surprised. Turned my phone after landing, waited minute or two and I was up and running with local LTE network. I was using it all over Europe, Dubai, and Bangalore.
If your phone usage looks like mine; music, navigation, emails, and have WiFi at work and at home, it could cut your phone bill in half. I never had to keep checking my usage, in the worst case I will be where I was with AT&T. Pricing is pretty straightforward: unlimited calls & text are $20 month + $10 per GB of data anywhere. In the 23 months of the service, my average price on the bill is $33.90.
There are small taxes & fees at the end of the bill, but nothing unextraordinary. Extraordinary is Google’s transparency here, if you click on the fee sum, it’ll expand and show you all the taxes and fees. Just for your curiosity, I’m adding a screenshot below:
- You can use your phone to create a WiFi hotspot. They’re claiming you can share it with up to 10 other devices at the same time, but I never tried more than my iPad.
- Text transcribed voicemails are pretty useful, but it is getting standard with other operators as well.
- Bill for data will never be higher than $60 thanks to their Bill protection.
- You can add up to 5 additional members for $15/month. The data package is shared.
- From what I found online (never experienced it) they’ll try to limit your speed somewhere around 15GB monthly.
- If you’re maxing your mobile data usage, or have kids who do, there are family plans with lower $/line.
Project Fi on iPhone
Project Fi officially does not support iOS, but there are hacks on how to get it to work. I followed the reddit instructions, went to Best Buy, purchased the newest Google Nexus, went home, activated Project Fi SIM, factory reset Nexus and return it back. Project Fi SIM worked after inserted into my iPhone SE. There’s no network switching on iPhones, and you’re always stuck with T-mobile network, which worked fine for me, ideally, check with a friend who has T-mobile how’s her reception in the area.
How to start
I originally started using Project Fi on my iPhone SE. There was a small glitch while transferring my number over from AT&T, but support was very prompt and solved my issue in a couple of minutes. You need a Google/Gmail account to link with your phone number. If you don’t feel like sponsoring Google with more of your personal data, you can always create a blank new account.
You can signup directly via Project Fi homepage, or to start with a $20 free credit use my personal referral link. (Disclaimer: I will earn $20 credit as well, which means I will owe you a beer when in the same city).