Project Fi - This is BIG!

Category: Mobile

A reader asks: “I've heard that Google just started their own mobile phone service, with rates that are surprisingly low. Is that true, and is it a better deal than Verizon, AT&T or T-Mobile?” My answer is “Yes, sort of, and yes, maybe." Here's the scoop on Project Fi. Read on to find out if switching will save you money…

What is Project Fi?

Google has launched Project Fi, a new way to stay connected while on the move. Project Fi is a hybrid WiFi-cellular network similar to Republic Wireless, a company I’ve covered before. Whether it’s cheaper than Republic Wireless and other budget communication plans depends on how much data you use.

Only $20/month gets you unlimited U. S. talk and text, plus unlimited international texts. International voice rates are low and available in 120 countries. The deal also includes WiFi tethering, so you can share your phone's internet connection with a laptop, e-reader, etc. Project Fi does not offer group or family plans at the moment.

Project Fi’s opening salvo is certainly bigger than any hybrid startups. Google has recruited T-Mobile and Sprint to be its cellular fallbacks when WiFi is not available. That gives Project Fi a nationwide 4G LTE footprint right off the bat.
Project Fi - Google Mobile phone service

Data costs $10 per gigabyte used per month. Significantly, Google prorates its data fee: if you go 0.3 GB over your selected data allowance, you pay 0.3 times $10 extra, or $3. Compare to plans that sock you hard for every MEGAbyte over your plan’s allowance. Also, unused data rolls over to the following month’s allowance. That's a really nice perk. Oh, and there's no annual contract required. So you're not locked in by the threat of an "early termination fee."

The geeks at Android Police have done the math for you; if you use 5 GB of data per month or less, Google Fi is cheaper than the discount plans of T-mobile, AT&T, and Verizon.

If you're a typical user who consumes about 2GB per month, you'll save $35-$40 per month as compared to Verizon or AT&T. With credit for unused data, the savings could go higher.

Is There a Catch?

Every phone plan has a catch. But Project Fi doesn’t. You won’t be throttled when you exceed your data allowance. Your service won’t be canceled because you “abused” what you pay for.

Well, there is one catch: Right now, Project Fi works only on Google’s Nexus 6 phone. If you don't have one already, that'll cost you $649. That's a big chunk of change, but you can spread the payments over 24 months, and pay $27.04/month. That's not so bad, if you're saving $40/month on your phone bill. Remember that Project Fi is one of Google’s grand experiments, and there's no guarantee it'll be around in two years. So buying a Nexus 6 for Project Fi alone is a tradeoff you'll have to consider.

Project Fi is perhaps not intended to out-compete other networks. Its goal is to demonstrate to the incumbent carriers that simple, honest pricing and policies are what consumers want. We shall see if that’s the case.

What's your opinion? Does Project Fi seem like something you'd like to try? Post your comment or question below...

 
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This article was posted by on 27 Apr 2015


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Most recent comments on "Project Fi - This is BIG!"

(See all 27 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Nancy Teppler
27 Apr 2015

Thanks, as always, for keeping us informed. I'll be waiting to see if other phones become viable or the cost of the phone goes down, as it's a hefty amount for retired people on fixed incomes.


Posted by:

Daniel
27 Apr 2015

I have already signed up to get a chance. I especially like the promise to switch back and forth between cell and wifi. Then, the whole rollover of minutes is great. But when my name is chosen, I might skip it. It's a great concept, but probably not good for Oklahoma. I looked at the Sprint and T-Mobile coverage plans, and they really aren't very good. Their idea of 'Nationwide' doesn't hold well in OK. Now I see why many of my friends gripe about their service so much.


Posted by:

Carl
27 Apr 2015

Does this Google phone service apply to Canada?


Posted by:

Phil Reed
27 Apr 2015

Well, Bob, it just so happens I just signed up with Republic Wireless and thus purchased a Moto X 32Gb phone for around $450 with the additional 16Gb I added. It seems Google is looking at Republic Wireless' business model and have copied a large part of it. I'm sure there are differences, but Republic is always looking for better ways to serve their customers. Maybe this will prompt them to move faster in the direction of data carryover and not to throttle back the Internet speed if you go over the 5Gb limit in a month, which is truly generous. Don't you love competition!


Posted by:

dlfs
27 Apr 2015

There's another sort of catch: you have to request an invitation from Google and wait 'til they invite you. Google doesn't give any indication of how long you'll have to wait. I would like to try this out and have requested an invitation but I'm not willing to wait very long. If they don't invite me soon, I'll sign up for another 2 yrs at Verizon.


Posted by:

Carole
27 Apr 2015

I heard this mentioned on the Clark Howard Show on radio at least a month ago or longer. I use a ToGo phone plan on AT&T and it cost me $100. a year. I can't see spending $30-$40 a month on something I rarely use.


Posted by:

HA
27 Apr 2015

I'm using Republic Wireless.
Cheaper and quite good.


Posted by:

Barry
27 Apr 2015

Republic Wireless works GREAT for me.

Unlimited talk and text via Cell tower. Data via internet/wifi. 10 bucks a month plus 1 dollar tax. Plus I kept my old number. With Tmobil I was paying 33/mo for 1500 anytime min. no text or data. Thanks Bob... you were the one that pointed me in the right direction and saved me 264/yr. Oh, I for got to mention I have better coverage and better reception too.


Posted by:

Bob Deloyd
27 Apr 2015

I am using Republic Wireless and I am very happy with their service. I use the $10 plan which includes
UNLIMITED TALK / TEXT over WiFi + Cell.
UNLIMITED DATA over WiFi.
I got a brand new Motorola Moto E for $99 which is an excellent phone, micro SD slot (the other phones don't), Android 4.4.4. The 5MP camera has a fixed focus though, but I have taken some great shots with it.
I used the phone on my trip from Tucson to Tampa Florida by Greyhound buses and never had a problem getting connected.
I would recommend Republic Wireless to anyone on a tight budget. They also have a plan for $25 with 3G Data and you can switch between plans, which I should have done on my trip to Florida ;)


Posted by:

D. Callaway
27 Apr 2015

We are in a rural area and have spotty coverage for both AT&T and Verizon. So, I would want to be very sure we would get service.


Posted by:

BobD
27 Apr 2015

$649 for a phone bowls me out of my sox! What's so wonderfula about a Nexus 6?
Then again, if the phone won't turn itself off after a few hours the way my $40 Samsung Centura does, it might be worth it.


Posted by:

Mike in Colorado
27 Apr 2015

Hopefully they'll expand the service to other phones, but I'm happy with my T-Mobile service for now. I pay about $95 per month, including fees and taxes, for four lines of unlimited talk, text and data, which includes unlimited text and data in 120 countries and 20 cents a minute to talk while overseas. The data lines have 2.5 GB each of high speed. If we go over it, they throttle the speed, but don't charge more. When my limit was 1 GB, I'd occasionally go over the limit but never noticed a speed difference. I've gotten better coverage at the places I care about than my old Verizon service. Also, I like that I can tether my tablet or other wireless devices at no extra charge. I love that I don't get nickle and dimed like I did with Verizon and Sprint. Still, if Project Fi takes off and I can save money, yet keep the features I like, I'd consider switching.


Posted by:

DB
27 Apr 2015

This sounds like something I would be greatly interested in. MY present contract with AT&T is up in June, and I would Like to find something more flexible and less expensive. I read through all the information about this new service, but one question I have I couldn't find an answer. Would their Nexus 6 phone be able to run using the Windows phone software instead of Android? This is what I have now and love it! Would like to keep it.

EDITOR'S NOTE: No, the Nexus is an Android phone, and only phones designed for Windows can run that mobile OS.


Posted by:

Daniel Wiener
27 Apr 2015

Project Fi sounds interesting and worth keeping an eye on. However I'm fairly satisfied with our existing Sprint Family plan (which admittedly is grandfathered in from a few years ago and is probably better than what's now being offered). The four of us on the plan each pay a little under $50/month including taxes and fees. We get 1,500 shared "Anytime" minutes (and rarely use more than a third of that) along with unlimited free mobile-to-mobile calls, unlimited nights and weekends, unlimited data, unlimited texts, unlimited roaming, and unlimited long-distance (but not international calls).

What's more, we get the $150 credit or equivalent towards a new cell phone on each line every 22 months, on the condition of extending the agreement on the line for an extra two years. So a few weeks ago my wife and I each upgraded to Galaxy S5 phones (I always stay one generation behind, to keep the costs down and avoid introductory bugs). They cost us just $29.99 on Amazon plus a $36 activation fee. Even compared to the spread-out monthly payments for purchasing or leasing other phones on other plans, that's vastly less than a new Nexus 6 phone for $649, or any other new phone for the typical $500 to $700. Of course the full cost of our phones is also buried in our own monthly charges, but we're still paying under $50 per month for everything.

True, we're each locked into Sprint for up to two years. But since I don't anticipate switching providers, I consider that a worthwhile trade-off and a good deal.


Posted by:

Arline
28 Apr 2015

I'm not sure that I understand. When receiving calls via wi-fi, does it act as a VOIP phone? If so, that might mean that I wi get better reception at home than I get with Verizon. I have a voip phone now that comes in clearer than my cell. Please advise, and thank you in advance.


Posted by:

Macedonian
28 Apr 2015

I bet that they will give it for free in the future.

The catch is that they follow you and your behaviour then they "serve" you with advertisements where they make money.


Posted by:

RandiO
28 Apr 2015

The link below from ArsTechnica site also has a very good pricing comparison of most other competing plans and provides further discussions on the details of GoogleFi.
http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2015/04/22/how-googles-project-fi-pricing-stacks-up-to-the-competition/
To me, it appears that this disruptive offering from Google is not solely for beating the competitors at the pricing-point (w/o including the sky-high price of Nexus6). One can only hope that it will shake up the industry to provide more uniform coverage with less drop outs; since GoogleFi supposed to transition [seamlessly?] between CDMA/GSM/LTE/WiFi in areas of spotty coverage.
This concept may also provide international business travelers with the capability of a single phone/SIM being able to connect to most networks in most all countries.
IMHO >> I would rather prefer the average 2-3% drop-out rate than put ALL my privacy eggs in Google's gigantic egg basket!


Posted by:

Kathy
02 May 2015

I'm so glad to see phone companies actually becoming competitive. However since I only recently went with T-Mobile and have not yet paid for my phone there (Galaxy Note 3, which I LOVE), I won't be switching. Another of my peeves is that one pays an enormous sum for a phone only to find that if you switch your service, the new one inevitably won't work with it. (I was lured to T-Mobile by its 'bring your own phone' ads, then found that 'no, my phone wasn't supported by them even though I could buy the SAME phone from them. I only ended up switching because my previous phone met with an accident and was smashed). When I find a phone I like I want to keep it, not be forced to buy a new one if I want to change carriers!


Posted by:

Sherry Delikat
01 Oct 2015

I have 7 Verizon phone lines. even with the one heavy data user I have it would save $110 a month (maybe a little less when we tack on fees and taxes). and the low data users could go ahead and use more. Wow!! Now I just have to figure out how to buy that many phones.... Maybe one at a time.


Posted by:

Horace P. McTitties
07 Jun 2016

Exactly what I've been searching for with one hitch, the upfront. I've been able to whittle my plan down to $30 for 1 gig / unlimited talk and text a month with an upfront of $200 for a Note 4 (in excellent condition from eBay). Actually $30.78 a month after I cancelled their unsolicited device insurance plan they included in my bill at a paltry $11 a month (an offer which was made even MORE enticing by the $250 deductible).
I surely don't have the intention of disparaging my current carrier which is why I choose to not name them. I agree with you that with a little discipline and a minimal amount of legwork (an inherent distrust of large companies doesn't hurt either) you can find a halfway decent deal for cellular service.
I'm an admitted and unashamed Samsung fanboy but not so much so that I would pass up a good deal on a Nexus 6 but that $649 sticker is just a bit too steep for me to purchase outright and risk having to replace. Having foregone the insurance, I fortunately have the $200 to throw at another Note 4 or an S5 should the unspeakable happen. Google might want to consider this and include phones wired for T-Mobile or Sprint to keep in line with their theme of inexpensive service. And as a way to attract "defectors" from those carriers as new customers. It is the only thing that is holding me back from signing up yesterday.


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