Project Fi: 5 reasons why Google’s innovative cell service rocks

Google Project Fi Review - Nexus 5X

For Google the same old does not apply. Case in point: Project Fi. In my initial tests the innovative cell service stands out from the crowd, providing quality coverage, flexible SIM card management for secondary devices, and, maybe best of all, no contracts, no cancellation fees, and bills you can actually understand–the gall!

I made the jump from T-Mobile’s $30 pre-paid plan (100 minutes talk, unlimited text, unlimited data with 4G up to 5GB) when Google teased with the Nexus 5X promotion. For just $199 Google would send a 5X phone with a Project Fi starter kit. There was no obligation, so you could cancel the next day, and still get to keep the phone which normally retails for $349. Pretty sweet. I was tentative, and didn’t outright cancel my T-Mobile plan. But, after a few weeks on Fi, I’m getting that feeling, that wonderful feeling, that… the future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.

Yes, Project Fi is great. And it’s very much welcomed in an industry that has seen little innovation; though, thankfully, unlocked phones have become the norm, allowing us to swap-out SIM easily, and break free from the carrier death grip.

Okay then, fair enough, the proof is in the pudding, and here’s 5 specific things I especially like about Google’s cool, new (and now invite-free) Project Fi cell plan.

5 Reasons Why Project Fi Rocks

Pay as You Go

Project Fi pricing is really simple. And you pay for what you use as you go, on a monthly basis. Base services are $20 per month. With that you get unlimited talk and text. Then, you pay $10/GB.

You do pre-pay. In the below example, if you think you’ll use 2GB in a month, you’d pay $40 up-front. If you use less, Google carries forward a credit. If you use more, you square up. Simple as that.

Fi Monthly Cost

  • Fi Base Services $20
  • Data used (2GB) $20
  • Total $40

No Lawyer Needed to Decode Monthly Bills

Imagine a future… where we could all read our monthly cell bills without requiring the services of an attorney.

Imagine no more, friend. In my early testing of Fi, I’ve discovered that checking my data usage is straightforward. Google has done a nice job of simplifying the dashboard. Go to and you’ll see something like this:

Project Fi Account Dashboard


Fi is 2 Networks in 1

Project Fi is not a Google-made cellular network. Fi is something known as a virtual network. Technically Google (Alphabet) in this case is known as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO). Fi is owned by Google, but actually utilizes towers from two physical networks: T-Mobile and Sprint. In addition — thanks to a dash of that out-of-the-box Googlethink — Fi will automatically connect your phone to available wi-fi hotspots within range (hence the name “Fi”). This all happens in the background without you having to worry about a thing.

So far my coverage here in the San Francisco Bay Area has been as good as or better than it was when I was using my T-Mobile SIM card. For instance, when I was parking my car the other day in the basement of a high-rise in downtown San Jose I was actually getting bars (granted, just one, possibly two), when before I had absolutely no service no matter how hard I tried to reach for the sky.

Connect Secondary Devices with Data-only SIMs

For a guy like me this is the bonus round. You can request data-only SIMs from the Fi web site. They cost nothing, and allow you to connect secondary devices to your Fi plan. These data-only SIMs provide just that: data only. You won’t get texts or voice. Still, for a lot of us this is no problem. I use Google Hangouts for text (data) and a lot of voice communication via apps such as Voxer (again, data only). So, in theory you could pop a data-only SIM into a spare phone or tablet you have lying around and hit the streets and you’d be pretty much fully connected.

When I ordered one for my Fi account, I received it in a few days. The packaging was nearly identical to the one you’d receive when you get your Fi starter kit. I popped the SIM into my spare Nexus 6, and it activated in short order using the code provided (see below).

I also tried a Fi SIM in an old iPhone 4 and it worked without a hitch. Google, however, officially says only the Nexus 6, Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X, and certain tablets like the iPad Air and Nexus 9 are supported for Fi. My experience suggests that you may have luck getting other Android and iOS devices to run using Fi data-only SIMs — just don’t expect any support if you run into any issues.

As you’d expect, all data-only SIMs draw from the same plan. I like that the Fi account dashboard breaks down data usage by device. Good stuff.

Google Project Fi Billing Dashboard

Pause or Cancel Service with 1 Tap

Ah how I miss the old days. You know the ones… a polite conversation with a customer service agent (aka sales rep) trying to explain why you’d like to politely close your cellular account. The joys of a bygone era. With Fi, if you want to cancel or pause service, just open the app and let it be so:


Project Fi: Worth Switching from T-Mobile?

If you consume a lot of data, you may want to stick with your T-Mobile $30 pre-paid plan. Heavy video and music streamers who rack up, say, 10GB in monthly data, will quickly find themselves facing $100+ cell bills. Keep in mind, though, if you’re near public wi-fi hotspots this could be less of an issue thanks to Fi’s auto-switching.

If you’re like me, though, and use less than 2GB data per month, you’ll pay slightly more for Fi, but benefit from: data-only SIMs for additional devices, pause/cancel at will, better coverage (at least in my case here in SF Bay Area), easy-to-read billing, and… peace of mind knowing that yet one more part of our lives is being routed via Google’s all-seeing, all-knowing eye in the sky.

Wait… that last part? Yeah, comme ci, comme ça. I guess that’s true what they say about free lunches.

For now, I’m a happy Fi-er.

Follow Stark Insider on Twitter and Facebook. Join our 11,000 subscribers who read SI on tablets and smartphones on Google Newsstand. Prefer video? Watch us on Amazon Prime or subscribe to Stark Insider on YouTube, the largest arts & travel channel in San Francisco.
  • Phil Ormsby

    And don’t forget the awesome international calling rates, the ability to phone home from foreign countries for free on wifi, free 2g international data.

    I use a data only sim in my old Nexus 4 and use hangouts to give me access to the same Fi phone number using VoLTE and to use it as a wifi hotspot without depleting the battery in my Nexus 6.

    I can’t imagine going back to TMO but I do only use around 1gb a month.

  • Jeff Brown

    i got it since day one.. never look back.. im always around wifi at work and home and when im out biking.. services been great.. only issue is the handover sometimes drops the call from wifi to cell.. but thats not a deal breaker.

  • Justin Edward Crockett

    Really? Not a single mention of Republic wireless? The company who beat google fi to the chase by several years? They were the real innovators introducing wifi calling long before project fi. Give credit where credit is due.

    • Sam Garesche

      its not about wifi calling its about the use of 2 different towers, T-Mobile(GSM) and Sprint(CDMA) and cell to wifi handoff, all in a good-grea device on a reasonable priced, non-contract carrier

      • N. A. R II

        For me it has been about both. No cell signal at my house so wifi calling is a must and while Sprint is better than tmobile here having them both available is nice. I had republic wireless for a year and now approaching a year for Project FI. Both wifi calling and regular calling quality has been better on Project Fi. My republic moto x os never got updates, they did not allow rooting and no tethering. Another big annoyance with republic wireless is when someone has your 2nd hidden number. Each phone has a 2nd number that randomly get changed and if the last person that had it gets lots of calls they will come to you. This happened on my account and both my parents republic accounts which they still love. Project fi still often drops calls when moving in between sprint and tmobile’s networks while in a call.

  • Bl4ckConserv

    I switched from T-Mobile shortly after Fi started. I loved it and have not looked back. My bill averages $30/ month! Can’t go back now!

  • Ron W.

    It is also worth mentioning that while the Tmobile $30 5 GB deal is prepaid and does not charge taxes – Fi charges all of the taxes and carrier fees of postpaid. In my case, being in San Francisco, it adds about $6.50.

    • izick

      It’s not that much for me; however, I think we need to spam their feedback button to include the taxes in that $20 “Access” fee for talk/text. Honestly, it probably costs them closer to $5-$10/month to provide the talk/text. It’s really where they’re making their money.

      I switch from a 20 GB Cricket Wireless plan on the AT&T towers that I was paying $55/month for. Now with monthly payments for a 6P, Finsurance, and the plan, I’m still paying around $60/month. It’s been great, because I have WiFi everywhere at home and work. I do miss the freedom of just using data for no reason sometimes when I want to stream a show or a game while on the go. But you have to give a little to get a lot.

  • Piu

    In Mexico, you pay $200 pesos (around $12 US Dollars) and you get unlimited calls and texts to Mexico, USA and Canada, 3 GB data, Unlimited WhatsApp, Facebook also Facebook Messenger and Twitter and the best part includes roaming from Mexico to Canada, so you can use it like if you are in any city of Mexico or USA or Canada.