Google Fi, which launched in 2015 as Project Fi, is the company’s attempt to make mobile phone service better. Instead of trying to compete directly with traditional phone carriers, Google teamed up with cellular giants to provide affordable phone service, along with some extra perks.
If you’re thinking of hopping on board, here’s everything you need to know before switching to Google Fi.
1. What Is Google Fi?
Google Fi is a US-only mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), meaning that it piggybacks off established mobile networks instead of building its own.
The networks that Google Fi uses are T-Mobile and US Cellular (Sprint was included in the past before the company merged with T-Mobile). With a Google Fi plan and compatible phone, you can get no-nonsense cell service with several benefits at an affordable price.
Let’s explore the specifics of Google Fi to see if it’s right for you.
2. Google Fi Plans and Pricing
Google Fi offers three phone plans: Flexible, Simply Unlimited, and Unlimited Plus. All plans include unlimited calls and texts, built-in VPN and spam blocking, family controls, and 24/7 customer support.
You can change plans once a month, and make changes like adding users and pausing service whenever you need. Anyone can sign up for Google Fi as a single user, or create a group plan for up to six people. The more people on your plan, the lower the price per person. There are no contracts or activation fees with Fi, either.
Let’s take a look at each of the Google Fi plans to see how they differ. Note that prices don’t include taxes and fees.
Flexible is the only plan that changes based on your usage. With it, you pay $10 per gigabyte of data used, plus the following base cost per month:
- $20 for a single user
- $18 each for two users
- $17 each for three or four users
- $16 each for five or six users
The Flexible plan also includes Fi’s Bill Protection service. If the total data usage on your plan reaches a certain amount, all remaining data that month is free. This ranges from 6GB to 18GB, depending on the number of people on your plan.
Keep in mind that there’s also a cap of 15GB per person. If anyone on your plan hits this amount in a month, their data will be slowed drastically until the following period.
On the Flexible plan, you can use your data to power a hotspot on your phone at no extra cost. You’re also able to order free data-only SIMs to use in devices like tablets; these allow you to use your pool of data on other devices aside from your phone.
Finally, the Flexible plan lets you use data in over 200 countries at the same rate you pay while at home. Texts when you’re outside the US are free, while calls are $0.20 per minute.
If you use a lot of data and don’t want to worry about the variable cost of the Flexible plan, this one is for you. You’ll pay a flat monthly fee for unlimited data, which is slowed for any member who uses 35GB in a cycle. The monthly cost per person is below:
- $50 for one person
- $40 each for two people
- $25 each for three people
- $20 each for four to six people
With Simply Unlimited, the free data-only SIMs mentioned above are not included. You are also limited to 5GB per month of hotspot data. Finally, you can’t use Fi when traveling internationally; texting, calling, and data are only available in the US, Canada, and Mexico. However, you can still make calls to other countries at a low rate per minute.
If you want unlimited data without the above limitations, Unlimited Plus is the option for you. It offers the same unlimited data (with a higher 50GB limit per person before their data slows), plus 100GB of space in Google One and a year of YouTube Premium.
Unlike the above, though, you can use your data for a mobile hotspot as much as you want, and order data-only SIMs for your other devices. Unlimited Plus also provides mobile data abroad in over 200 countries, plus free calls to over 50 countries. If you use a lot of data and often travel internationally or use a mobile hotspot, give this plan a try.
Unlimited Plus is priced monthly as follows:
- $65 for one user
- $55 each for two users
- $45 each for three users
- $40 each for four to six users
3. Google Fi Compatible Phones
Google Fi works best with phones designed for the service. Take a look at the Google Fi phones page to see the current models on offer. As you’d expect, Google’s own Pixel phones are fully compatible, as are some flagship Samsung devices and more affordable Motorola phones.
These phones can take advantage of Google Fi’s network switching, which changes to the best network depending on your location. If you want to bring another phone, click the See if your phone is compatible link to visit the Fi compatibility page. There, you’ll be able to check if your phone works on Fi and which features it supports.
Most devices outside of the officially supported ones still offer calls, texts, and 4G data, along with international functionality and Fi’s extras. But you won’t get network switching on them, and 5G is only supported on devices that are compatible with T-Mobile’s 5G network. An iPhone will work on Fi, but it requires some extra setup and can’t use all the functionality.
Phones you buy from Fi come unlocked, and you can pay over time with 0% financing. If you have a device to trade in, Fi accepts these to reduce a new phone’s cost.
There’s also the Pixel Pass plan, which lets you pay a monthly fee for a new phone, YouTube Premium, device protection, Google One, and Google Play pass. It’s worth considering if you’d pay for all of these anyway.
Google Fi also offers device protection for Fi-designed phones. This is an additional, optional subscription that reduces the cost of phone repairs or replacement in case of damage or theft.
4. What It’s Like to Actually Use Google Fi
I used Google Fi for years before switching to Mint Mobile, and it was an overall pleasant experience.
Setting up the SIM card and getting my number transferred was a breeze; you can do this all from home so you don’t have to worry about waiting in line at a carrier store. Years ago, Google even replaced my out-of-warranty Google Fi Nexus 6P (which had a battery issue) with a new Pixel XL for free.
Cell service coverage is always a concern with any mobile carrier, but I didn’t have any major issues getting or staying connected. I’d occasionally find myself in a dead zone, but since your device switches between carriers and Wi-Fi networks, the dead moments never last long.
Check out Google Fi’s coverage map to see if the service covers your area.
I visited Australia twice in 2019 and the experience when using Fi internationally was great. As soon as I landed, my phone said “Welcome to Australia” and reminded me that I was covered with the same plan as at home. Using data abroad worked well, and I didn’t have to pay any ridiculous daily international fees like on some other carriers. Check the Google Fi international rates page for more info on specific regions.
Google Fi focuses on connecting you to the best available network. It uses Wi-Fi calling if doing so is faster than your cellular connection. The service also seamlessly moves between the carrier networks to find the best connection. If you’re interested, apps like Signal Info can show what network you’re connected to at a given time.
If you approach one of the many “high-quality” open Wi-Fi networks around the country, your phone will automatically connect and Google’s built-in VPN will protect your browsing while you’re on it.
Being able to connect to two networks instead of one makes for a noticeable improvement. I had a reliable signal in areas where my old plan had issues connecting. Google Fi doesn’t feel at all like an unreliable or “second-rate” service.
If all this isn’t enough, when I got my original phone and SIM card delivered, Google even included a “Holiday Surprise”—a buildable LEGO figure that held my charging cables in place! When has your phone provider ever done something like that that made you smile?
5. Google Fi Extras: Voicemail, Hotspots, and More
Google Fi includes a few extras on top of the phone plan. We’ve mentioned some of these briefly above, but there’s a bit more to go over.
FI supports visual voicemail in the Phone app, so you can read transcripts and listen to messages without calling a number and sitting through annoying prompts. As discussed, Google Fi also lets you turn your phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot for tethering at no extra cost. You pay for the data you use while tethered on the Flexible plan. All hotspot data is included on the Unlimited Plus plan, and the Simply Unlimited plan has a cap on hotspot data.
As a nice bonus, if you refer a friend to Google Fi, you’ll both get a $20 credit to your bills. If you ever decide you don’t need service for a while, you can pause your plan for up to three months and resume it later. And Fi encrypts calls made on Android between Fi users, giving you additional privacy while on the phone.
Fi also offers solid family controls. The account manager can see how much data each person has used and set allotments if needed. You can also turn on Fi’s family security features, like blocking texts from strangers. All Fi plans include Google’s VPN to protect your browsing on unknown networks.
6. Getting Started With Google Fi
Anyone can sign up for Google Fi; just head to the Google Fi signup page and sign in with the Google account you want to use to manage it. Here, you’ll select your device, choose a number, and confirm your plan.
If you have a number with Google Voice, Google Fi now allows you to keep both that number and your Fi phone number on the same account. Call forwarding is available if you want to receive all calls in the same place.
When you sign up, you can either get a brand-new phone number or migrate your current number over from your old carrier. You’ll have to go through a brief process to make the switch once you get your phone, then manually cancel your service with your old carrier. Google does not pay any switching fees, so check with your current carrier first to avoid surprises.
7. Google Fi Account Management Is Easy
In the app, you can see how many days remain in the current cycle, how much data you’ve used (and set a warning limit), and view past statements. In addition to tweaking features like voicemail and call forwarding, you can manage your group and plan, and even order new devices.
The app also lets you contact support via phone, email, or chat. Google promises a quick response on calls, so you don’t have to worry about sitting on the phone for an hour to get a small issue fixed.
The app is simple and stays out of the way. Outside of managing your data, you shouldn’t need to visit the Fi app much, and that’s great.
Is Google Fi Right for You?
After using Google Fi for years, I can state that Google Fi is a simple, inexpensive, and reliable phone plan that’s worth the price in many cases.
If you have any interest in the supported phones and think you’re paying too much for cell service, give Google Fi a look. It’s especially handy if you’re on Wi-Fi often and don’t use much data. It’s not for everyone, but it’s affordable, provides great features, and lets you escape from the fees and pains of traditional carriers.
I’m now paying less with Mint Mobile and getting more data for the price, so consider that if you don’t like Fi’s variable rates but don’t need unlimited data either. No matter what phone plan you use, you should know how to cut down on mobile data usage to minimize your cost.