How much do you spend on your cell phone bill each month? This topic came up over the Thanksgiving break and my brother threw out the number: “between $100 and $140.” As somebody who spends roughly half that, that seemed crazy. We’re both on identical plans and we both can be voracious streamers, of everything from Spotify to Netflix to HBO GO. Obviously, I’m a little bit more wi-fi conscious, waiting to download things before I leave the house.
The average person in the US spends around $73 each month on their cell phone bill, but there’s a really good chance your bill tips that scale. And, naturally, you’re probably willing to look into ways to lower it, without necessarily changing habits. Project Fi, Google’s cell phone service, launched in 2015. It utilized other carriers’ cellular networks – Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular – as well as wi-fi, and depending on the location, it would automatically pick the network that had the best service (sort of like how its mesh wi-fi network, Google Wifi ($129+), always finds the hub with the strongest connection). Project Fi’s selling point, however, was that it was dead-simple and cheap.
It cost $20 each month per phone line, which got you unlimited calling and texting, and then was $10 per GB of data. If you didn’t use all your data, you got your money back. And if you used over 6GB of data, the rest was free (although Google would start throttling speeds if a user used more than 15 GB in a given month). There were no roaming fees, either, so the max one person could pay per month was $80.
The other big selling point with Project Fi was that it had great international data coverage. In fact, most of the people I know who tried Project Fi had used it strictly for traveling abroad. You’d simply sign up a few days beforehand via the app, Google would send you a SIM card that you’d put in your phone, and you’d travel. When the trip was over, you’d just cancel the plan. There weren’t any termination fees, so it was completely feasible to terminate and reactivate service at any time.
Of course, there was a catch. Project Fi only worked with a few phones made by Motorola or by Google itself, making Project Fi ultimately impractical.
That has changed: Google announced that it had rebranded and expanded Project Fi – it’s now officially called Google Fi – and it works with most smartphones, including all iPhones with iOS 11 or later. Other than the name and the devices that it works with, Google Fi is exactly the same as the Project Fi before it. It costs the same and managing your account is as simple as opening the app (iOS, Android). So, should you switch?
Right now Google Fi is still technically in beta for iPhone users, meaning they won’t get all the features. For instance, they won’t be able to call or text over wi-fi, which could be an inconvenience if you’re often in homes or places with great wifi yet poor cell service. The other big thing is that your 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.
Still, now seems as ripe a time as ever to try Google’s new cell service. It’s easy to switch over and if you want to set up a group or family plans, that’s easy too. 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. And just like before, it can be entirely setup after downloading the app. Dead simple and cheap. The software is seamless, straightforward and really easy to use.
Through the app, you can do things like managing your data or usage. And if other people are on your plan, like your kids, you can monitor them as well. There are a bunch of other things you can monitor or tweak within the app, and all of them are free.
Even if you don’t want to switch your current cell phone provider – cancellation can be a pain – it’s still worth keeping Google Fi in the back of your mind for things like travel. If you’re heading abroad, Google Fi promises to be a stress-free way of managing your data. And, which hasn’t been the case in the past, you can keep and use your current iPhone. Just swap out the SIM.