Google Fi, formerly known as Project Fi, is a unique cellular service that uses multiple cellular networks and Wi-Fi behind the scenes - automatically picking the best partner wherever you happen to be.
When Google announced Project Fi in April 2015, the initial two partner networks were Sprint and T-Mobile - giving Google access to the combined coverage maps of the third and fourth largest cellular carriers in the country. In June 2016, they added regional carrier US Cellular to the line-up.
Google Fi's Flexible Plan starts at $20/month for 1 user (plus taxes and fees), and then $10 for each GB of data used. If additional people are included on the plan (up to 6 people), the monthly rate goes down slightly. The plan includes unlimited talk, text, and support for mobile hotspot use.
In September 2019 Google Fi announced their Unlimited Plan. Starting at $70/month, it includes high speed data up to 22GB. After 22GB, data speeds are substantially throttled - down to 256kbps (2G speed). Like the Flexible Plan, additional users (up to 6) can be added, reducing the monthly fee slightly.
If you want additional high-speed data after the 22GB usage cap has been met, you can manually purchase more at a price of $10/GB. And video is may be reduced down to 480p (DVD quality).
Until November 2018, when Project Fi was rebranded to Google Fi, the service had a very limited selection of compatible smartphones. While the list of compatible phones is now greatly expanded, not all phones can take advantage of Google Fi's multi-carrier switching, use over Wi-Fi and international features.
Those considering a non-Fi device should consult Google's support article before signing up for service to discover specific device limitations.
Google also rolled out a built-in VPN service and an "enhanced networking" service that improves transitions between networks, particularly between cellular and WiFi. These two features only function with phones that are fully compatible with Google Fi.
For Our Comparative Pricing Grid:
Guide to Cellular Data Plan Pricing
We carried a Project Fi account (before it became Google Fi) for about a year and can report it works as advertised.
Policies & Perks:
- Carrier Networks Used: T-Mobile, Sprint, US Cellular
- Carrier Relation: MVNO
- Plan Types Available: Phone
- Device Types Permitted: Any - although not all will work properly.
- Device Purchase Required: No, but can purchase a device. Smartphones that are not specifically designed to take advantage of Google Fi will have a more limited feature set.
- Mobile Hotspot Use: All data is available for mobile hotspot use except for on iPhones outside the US.
- Throttling: Flexible Plan - None. Unlimited Plan - throttled down to 256kpbs after 22GB.
- Network Management: "Yes. Google Fi engages in reasonable network management policies to protect its network, systems, equipment, services and users from harm, ensure reliable, quality services to its users, and improve its services."
- International Roaming: Data can be used around the world at the speeds depending on your device and what the roaming partner supports. It is billed on an as-needed basis at $10/GB, and Bill Protection is enabled (see 'Overage Charges' below). iPhones cannot use mobile hotspot data internationally.
- Domestic Roaming: Phones specifically designed for Google Fi use the native coverage map of three major US carriers domestically - Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular. Plans include the domestic roaming agreements each of those carriers have for phone & TXT service, and data is reduced to 256 kpbs speeds when roaming. Non-Fi phones are limited to T-Mobile's network.
- Plan Period: Month
- Data Roll Over: You set a budget with Google Fi for your projected data needs, and unused data is then credited back to you on your next bill.
- Overage Charges: Data is priced on an as-you-use it basis at $10/GB (not rounded up - you use 1.3 GB, you're charged $13). With their Bill Protection feature included on all accounts, billing is capped at $60 for data usage after 6GB of usage. Customers can then use up to 15GB of data at high speed - still capped at only being billed for 6GB of usage. After 15GB of data are used, speeds will be throttled to 256kbps, for an unlimited amount of data. Or customers can elect to resume billing at $10/GB for high speed. Group plans offer higher thresholds.
- Streaming: No additional streaming services are provided with prepaid accounts.
- Compatible Phones: Google fi has a limited set of fully-compatible phones that can take advantage of all of Fi's features . Most of the phones can be pricey. Most other Android phones, as well as Apple iPhones, are semi-compatible - they can be used on Google Fi, but come with fewer features and are limited to the T-Mobile network while in the US.
- Lines Per Account: 6 line limit
Related Articles & Videos:
- Google Fi Launches New Unlimited Plan - With a 22GB Limit Posted on: September 17, 2019
- Google Fi Free Month Promo Posted on: March 13, 2019
- 2018 Mobile Internet Year in Review & Looking Forward Into 2019 Posted on: December 31, 2018
- Project Fi Rebranded to Google Fi - New Features and Phone Options Posted on: November 28, 2018
- Google Project Fi Adds 'Bill Protection' Offering Kinda / Sorta Unlimited Data Posted on: January 17, 2018
Potential Alternatives to Consider:
For other featured cellular data plans ideal for RVers and Crusiers - here's some other options to consider:
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Selecting the right cellular data plan for your mobile internet needs is only one part of the equation. Here's some further guides on understanding the selection process as well as the additional gear you might need.