How much do you spend each month on your cell phone bill? According to a recent JD Power study, the average American cell phone bill is $70 for a single user — which adds up $840 a per year — and that's a lot. If you're looking for a way to substantially lower your cell phone bill without necessarily changing many of your habits, you should think about switching to Google's cell phone service, called Google Fi.
Google Fi (which was previously called Project Fi) launched back in 2015 and it utilizes other carriers’ cellular networks – Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular – as well as Wi-Fi. Depending on the location, it automatically picks the cellular network that has the best service (sort of like how its mesh wi-fi network, Nest Wifi, always finds the hub with the strongest connection). This is how its signal is typically so reliable.
Google Fi has a number of big selling points. The biggest is obviously price. It costs $20 each month per phone line, which gets you unlimited calling and texting, and then is $10 per GB of data. If you don't use all your data, you get your money back. And if you use over 6GB of data, the rest is free (although Google will start throttling speeds if a user used more than 15 GB in a given month). There are no roaming fees, either, so the max one person can pay per month is $80.
It's also dead simple to use and manage your account. All you have to do is open the app — available on iOS and Android— and you can do things like track your data usage, turn alerts on/off, and manage your voicemail or call forwarding. If you want to set up a group or family plans, that be down entirely within the app, too. (For reference: you can have up to six people on a single Google Fi plan, with each additional person costing $15 per month – that’s $5 cheaper per month than a single-person plan.)
Finally, Google Fi has great international data coverage. In fact, a lot people use Google Fi strictly for traveling abroad. You simply sign up a few days beforehand via the app, Google sends you a SIM card that you put in your phone, and then you go on your trip. When it's over, you can cancel the plan. There isn't any termination fees, so it's completely feasible to terminate and reactivate the service at any time.
Up until 2018, Project Fi (now Google Fi) only worked with a few phones made by Motorola or by Google itself, which meant that it was impractical for a lot of people. But that's obviously since changed. Google rebranded and expanded Project Fi to be called Google Fi and today it works with most smartphones, including with iPhones (iOS 11 or later).
That said, there's still a catch with Google Fi: it's technically in beta for iPhone users.
This means that iPhone users won't get all the same features of Google Fi as Android users. For instance, iPhone users still can't call or text over Wi-Fi, which is convenient for people in homes with poor cell service. The other big thing is that the iPhone can’t be tied to a carrier – it needs to be unlocked. (If your iPhone was purchased through a carrier, you need to go to Apple to see if they can unlock it for you, but you may be out of luck.)
That said, as of June 2021, Google has rolled out its built-in VPN feature to iPhone users, which had previously only been available on Androids. Like other "virtual private networks," the built-in VPN prevents other people (like ad parties) from seeing things like what websites your visiting when on your phone.
If you're not not yet ready to switch over just year – canceling your current plan can be a pain – it’s still worth keeping Google Fi in the back of your mind. Especially if you're thinking about traveling abroad for the first time in forever. It promises a stress-free way to manage your data. Plus, you can keep and use your current iPhone. Just swap out the SIM.