This is how a good vacation transforms our cells (and what happens to them when stress returns)

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Update: I have happily used Fi for three years now, but at that place are some systemic bug with Google that can cause major problems that yous should be aware of before you switch.

It’south no secret that connectivity is 1 of my top priorities when traveling. Being able to accept unlimited location flexibility is pretty awesome, but that but works if I can jump on to a stable internet connexion at short notice.

I’ve tried an array of options over the years, but recently switched my primary prison cell phone coverage to Google’south Projection Fi, and oh my goodness — this is a game changer!

If y’all travel,
at all, you lot should strongly consider Google Fi every bit an option.

Some background

My go-to system over the years has been to bear a portable MiFi device, forth with a pre-paid SIM menu. This tin be a bit annoying to set upward (equally you lot have to inquiry which provider offers the best information plan in the land you’re visiting, know where to purchase or reload the card, etc.), but after six years of traveling this way I had a pretty adept system and choice of SIM cards to choose from.

I tested T-Mobile’s international programme when it first debuted in 2014, and had mixed thoughts. The cell service in Chicago was lousy, and the data speeds internationally weren’t great. It was certainly better than cypher, only not a compelling enough culling for me to switch from my tried-and-true pre-paid SIM selection. I likewise had a generous grandfathered programme from Sprint that I’d had since I bought my first smartphone in 2007, and while Sprint is pretty horrible, the price was compelling.

And then I took a trip to Alaska in March to meet the first of the Iditarod and the Northern Lights. Sprint promised coverage in Alaska (which seems reasonable, given I’ve had decent service in Hawaii and Puerto Rico), but in that location was naught.

No jail cell service, and no data.

I would probably accept written information technology off, but there were plenty things we wanted to see that I didn’t want to exist tethered to hotel Wi-Fi. So I called Dart, and told them I was having problem with my phone in Alaska, to which the friendly representative responded:

“Sure, permit me transfer yous to our international department.”

Every bit someone who has made a career of talking to poorly trained phone agents, not much fazes me, but…

“Sorry, I’m in downtown Anchorage, Alaska. The 49th land? Which is in the Us?”
“Mmmmmm, information technology says here that Alaska is international.”

And that’south when I decided to exit Sprint, considering my life is complicated enough without having to deal with a telephone company that’s stuck in 1958.

But I wasn’t sure which phone provider to switch

Enter Google Project Fi

A few days later I was having dinner with Zach from TPG, who suggested Google’s Project Fi as an option. I’one thousand married to an engineer, so I’d had an invite to Google’s new service sitting in my inbox for a year, but hadn’t really looked into the program.

Turns out
Google Fi is an awesome selection for folks who travel internationally with whatever frequency.

It’s probably a solid selection for everyone else also, but the other domestic US carriers aren’t as horrible for people who don’t travel, and then Fi is less of a no-brainer.


For this Millennial, Projection Fi’s pricing is and so delightfully obvious as to make every other cell phone provider obnoxious.

At that place are 4 components that make up your Google Fi plan:

  • $twenty for Fi Basics (domestic calls, domestic and international texts, with no limits)
  • $10 per GB of information used in the U.Southward.
  • $10 per GB of data used in 120 supported countries
  • $0.20 per minute for cell telephone calls when traveling internationally

you always pay $20/month for the basics, and so the amount you pay for data flexes based upon your needs.

There aren’t any complicated packages or need to rail your minutes. Projection Fi actively seeks out WiFi connections as well, so y’all won’t utilise as much data as you call back — the average Fi user is using 1.6 GB of information each calendar month.

Your international data comes out of a split bucket (though it really doesn’t matter, because it’s all $10 per GB, information technology’s just tracked differently).

And so when I was in Mexico I used 0.624 GB at $ten.00/GB:


And the all-time affair —
the very best thing
— is that
you only pay for what y’all use

Then if you utilise .five GB of data i month y’all’ll pay your $20 basics and then $5 more. If you apply v GB you’ll still pay your $20 basics, so $50 for the data. You lot don’t have to decide in advance, and yous’ll either be billed or refunded based on where you prepare your defaults.


I love this!
There have been so many months where I’ve been away for three or more than weeks, using a strange SIM card for all my mobile data needs, only have diligently paid $100+ to my The states cell phone provider to maintain my service. With Google Fi, that isn’t an upshot, and if there are days where I’m on WiFi the entire time, I’chiliad non incurring data charges.


If you have a fabled bundled family plan and don’t travel internationally very frequently, you lot may still come out ahead with a traditional carrier. For singles, and fifty-fifty most couples, you can probably salvage a significant amount of coin with Project Fi — especially if you travel.

In our house, we were spending ~$135 a month for our joint Sprint plan, plus the costs of whatever pre-paid SIM cards we were picking up on our international travels. With Google Fi, information technology’due south been between $60 and $ninety for both of usa.
Nosotros’ll save at least $800 this year with this switch.

Signing Up For Google Fi

This process was and then unproblematic, and infinitely less annoying than schlepping to a strip mall to watch teenagers expect on hold.

The sign upwards process was linked to my google account, and information technology took just a few moments to select options.






Shipping was free, and quick. I had previously linked my Sprint number to my Google Voice account, so there were a few extra steps I had to practice to get everything sorted out, simply in general it but took almost 10 minutes to actuate everything and port my number over.


My 1 complaint with the initial process is that both Nexus phones arrived at our business firm with the batteries completely expressionless.


It’s annoying to have to wait for the phone to accuse to actuate the new service, and this is definitely something that can be improved.

Otherwise everything was like shooting fish in a barrel though, down to Projection Fi including a branded paperclip to open the telephone with ease.


Hotspots & Tethering

I have been tethering my phone to my laptop for years (thanks, Dart super-unlimited data plan!), and that’s something I really didn’t want to surrender.

I make good use of the xxx+ minutes between boarding and door closing, so didn’t desire to lose that productive time, and in that location are just some things you still need a computer for versus a phone.

Google Fi supports using your phone every bit a hotspot without any additional subscriptions
— just enable the service on your phone, prepare upward your network, and voila! Any data used comes out of your standard data bucket. Then like shooting fish in a barrel!

Yous can’t utilize your phone as a hotspot internationally at this point, but most Android users probably know a few means effectually that. 😉

Extra SIM cards

In addition to the SIM card needed to make your phone work on the Projection Fi network, Google will send you up to 8 data-merely SIMs, which can exist used in a variety of devices. These are designed for tablets and things, and use your same bucket of information.

Extra SIMs are too a great option for international travel — you tin can either share them with other people in the group that have unlocked international phones, or put one in a MiFi that the group tin and then access.

If you’re traveling internationally, whatsoever data used volition come out of your international data saucepan.

But how is the international coverage?

So far, great. Actually, really keen.

International data speeds are the master reason I chose Project Fi over T-Mobile. T-Mobile only promises 2G, and advertises “standard speeds equally approximately 128 Kbps.” That’s amend than a poke in the center, simply isn’t exactly speedy.

Projection Fi allows speeds upward to 256kbps, which is even so non going to be amazing for heavy uploads and downloads, but is totally fine for what about of us employ our phones for. And it’s twice as fast every bit what T-Mobile offers.

Changing countries is simple as well — walking across the border from San Diego to Tijuana (trip report on that coming shortly), my telephone switched automatically, which was impressive. Otherwise, Project Fi has always found the right network when I’ve turned off airplane mode in a new country.

I’ve made a few phone calls overseas equally well, which has been like shooting fish in a barrel. This isn’t a big perk for me, honestly, equally I take a pretty solid system with Skype and Hangouts, but it’s nice to have the option.

Can I utilise any phone?

Technically, and if you want to maximize your coverage in the U.S.,
yous accept to employ ane of the Nexus phones.


They take the dual-ring engineering that you need to switch between T-Mobile and Dart. Coming from a lifetime of HTC phones, the base of operations-model Nexus feels like it might exist manufactured by PlaySkool. The other Nexus phone is gigantic, and so neither are really ideal.
The phones themselves are probably the biggest drawback to Project Fi right now.

In exercise… as long as your telephone is unlocked yous should be able to access the T-Mobile network domestically, and the international coverage uses the T-Mobile band anyways.
I know people who are using iPhones or other Android products with no issue, but YMMV with the phone itself working.

You tin (officially) use the data-just SIM cards in a variety of products, then data shouldn’t be a problem regardless. You lot do have to keep a Nexus phone activated and linked to the account though.

How practice I maximize points with Project Fi?

Hopefully anybody is charging their cell phone bill to an Ink card for 5x points, and the 8000+ Ultimate Rewards points I was earning off my jail cell phone nib each year certainly took some of the sting out of my Sprint plan.

Google Fi doesn’t seem to code as a cellular provider, sadly.

  • American Express lists it equally “Business organisation Services – Internet Services” (I was hoping for advert, and so I could earn 3x points on my BRG)
  • Visa codes it every bit “Business organisation / Professional Services,” so I don’t retrieve there are many opportunities for bonus points here

Bottom line

Google Fi is a game-changer. I love the service, the pricing model, and the general flexibility. The international coverage has been great, and I can’t imagine going back to a traditional telephone plan. Yay for market disruption!

If you have a generous family unit plan with another carrier, or don’t travel much, this might not be as lucrative for you lot, simply information technology’southward certainly worth doing the math.

Has anyone else tried Project Fi? What was your experience?

For a express time, you can become a $twenty statement credit when you join Projection Fi.