Google Fi: The complete FAQ

Google Fi may sound like some eldritch sort of knowledgeability ritual ( “ Whoa, what happened to Rick ? I heard he got Googlefied ! ” ) — but if you can get by its silly-sounding name, the Google-owned radio service can both save you money and step astir your smartphone security system situation. Make no err about it : Google Fi — known as visualize Fi up until 2018 — is a pretty strange proposition. And it absolutely wo n’t make sense for everyone. If you fall into a certain stylus of smartphone use, though, it can eliminate a lot of the downsides that typically come with a traditional radio receiver design. so how does Fi actually work, and could it be correct for you ? Let ‘s tackle it question by burning interview and calculate that out together.

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What exactly is Google Fi — or Project Fi, or whatever you want to call it?

Google Fi is technically what ‘s known as an MVNO, or fluid virtual network hustler. That ‘s a fondness name for an entity that provides radio serve — y’know, the thing that allows you to make and receive calls and use mobile data from that glazed rectangle in your pouch — without actually owning the network infrastructure behind it. In other words, it ‘s kinda like a high-tech landlord. It does n’t have its own net like AT & T or Verizon ; alternatively, it has an agreement with those same sorts of carriers that allows it to tap into their networks and repackage access to those pipes under its own mark and agreement. [Get fresh Googley insight in your inbox every Friday with JR’s Android Intelligence newsletter . Exclusive extras await!]

What networks does Google Fi actually use, then?

In the U.S., Fi uses a combination of T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular ( so finally just T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular, since Sprint and T-Mobile are in the process of becoming one and the same ). That ‘s one of its spot features, in fact : When you use google Fi with a telephone that ‘s designed for the service, it ‘s able to seamlessly switch you between those networks based on which one has the strongest servicing at any given moment .

Ooookay. How does this network switching mumbo-jumbo even work?!

automatically and mutely ; on a daily basis, you ‘ll never even think about it or be aware that it ‘s happening. Your telephone good shows that you ‘re connected to Google Fi — but behind the scenes, the device endlessly seeks out the best possible network for your localization and sock you around as needed.

Will I get good coverage, then? How will it compare to what I have now?

That ‘s an crucial question — and unfortunately, there ‘s no simple nor universal joint answer, as it ultimately all depends on where you are and how Fi ‘s networks perform in your sphere. so where to begin in figuring that out ? well, you can start by checking Google ‘s official Fi coverage map. It lets you put in specific addresses and see what kind of combine coverage you can expect for any given city or neighborhood. ( Do n’t forget to check any places where you travel in addition to your home battlefront, particularly if you visit certain regions regularly for work. ) If you want to get even more particular, snag the rid OpenSignal app for your telephone. The app can show you detailed coverage maps for any set of networks in any area — based on user-submitted data — and even rank overall connectivity force for different networks where you are ( or where you might be ). Or, heck, you can plainly ask around — or mull over your own past experiences. think of it this way : If you know you can get solid avail with, say, T-Mobile in your sphere, then Google Fi should be very well for you ; the addition of the Sprint and U.S. Cellular networks as possibilities will lone flesh out that coverage farther and fill in any gaps. american samoa long as at least one of Fi ‘s networks is a viable option wherever you are, you ‘re good to go.

Is there 5G? Please tell me there’s 5G. WHAT ABOUT 5G?!

Sheesh — calm down there, Paco. I do n’t know if you ‘ve heard, but 5G is presently an overhyped mess that ‘s more about market than any meaningful, real-world value for most of us. That being said, yes, you can get 5G with Fi ( Fi-G ? ). As of this here and now, Google says any unbarred phone that ‘s compatible with T-Mobile ‘s 5G network in the U.S. will have entree to 5G with Fi — at least in hypothesis, in the bantam and inordinately limited neighborhoods where 5G is actually now available .

What about the Wi-Fi part of the process? Doesn’t Fi also connect to public Wi-Fi networks sometimes?

well, I ‘ll be. Go get yourself a cookie, you brilliant little koala. You ‘re on the ball today ! Google Fi does indeed incorporate public Wi-Fi networks into its coverage, provided you ‘re using a earphone that was designed explicitly for Fi manipulation. That ‘s another unusual and noteworthy character of its proposition. And just like with the mobile net switch, it all happens automatically and without any attempt on your behalf. here ‘s how it works : Anytime you ‘re in range of a publicly available Wi-Fi network that Google has determined to be “ high-quality and authentic ” ( a phrase you should credibly not borrow for your next date app profile ), your Fi telephone will switch over to that alternatively of using your regular mobile network. You ‘ll see it happen in retail establishments with open Wi-Fi networks or anywhere else that has Wi-Fi available without the need for any kind of sign-in. Fi mechanically encrypts your data anytime it ‘s connected to a network in that manner, using a special Google-provided virtual private network ( VPN ) — which means no one else on the network could snoop on your connection and see what you ‘re doing ( in the way you much hear described as a hazard of using populace Wi-Fi networks ). But good like with the service ‘s mobile network switch, you do n’t very think about any of that stuff in daily use. With the Wi-Fi stuff, you do see a especial icon in your condition banish showing that you ‘re connected to a network with the Google-provided encoding enabled, but other than that, things equitable work — and you do n’t put a lot thought into what network or type of network your telephone has attached itself to at any given moment .

Is there any way I can get that same VPN encryption all the time?

Why, yes, my insightful amigo ! Google added a feature of speech into Fi in 2018 that enables always-on VPN security for phones that ( a ) were designed explicitly for Fi and ( bacillus ) are running Android 9 or higher. ( Go get yourself another cookie. I ‘ll wait. ) It ‘s a pretty mighty fringe benefit, excessively, specially for anyone serious about Android security — which, hem, we all should be. But if you ever transmit medium company data, always-on encoding is not only fresh ; it ‘s practically a necessity. And unless your company provides its own customs VPN service, you typically end up having to rely on a third-party service for said protection — something that ‘s dearly-won, complicated, and difficult to evaluate and remain fully convinced in over time. With Fi ‘s built-in encoding choice, that challenge is no more : Your VPN is provided immediately by Google and bundled into your basic wireless serve. All you do is flip a little toggle in the Fi app on your phone to turn it on, and you can then rest easy knowing all your data will constantly be encrypted, no topic where you are or what sort of net you ‘re using .

What about cost? Will I actually save money with this Google Fi service?

again, there ‘s no simple universal suffice, as everyone ‘s needs and habits are different — and the competition from other carriers is constantly evolving. There are, however, some good general guidelines that can help you figure out if Fi might make fiscal ( get it — fi-nancial ? ! ) sense for you. Most broadly, I ‘d say this : Fi tends to be best for people who use a relatively humble sum of mobile data. If you burn through gigs upon gigs of mobile data each month, you ‘d probably do better with a different sort of apparatus. nowadays, specifically, here ‘s how it works : For an individual exploiter, Fi charges you 20 bucks a calendar month for your basic overhaul, which gives you unlimited calling and texting. On top of that, you pay $ 10 for every gigabyte of mobile data you use each calendar month — or whatever share of that number ends up being relevant, all the way down to the third decimal. so if, for example, you used 2.202GB of mobile data in a month, you ‘d pay $ 22.02. And crucially, you pay only for the amount of fluid data you actually use, without any sneaky fees or objectionable add-ons other than the ineluctable taxes and government-mandated surcharges. In that 2.202GB exercise, then, your total bill would be $ 22.02 plus the $ 20 base price and tax — so credibly somewhere in the neighborhood of $ 50 or a little less, all combined. ( Google says the taxes and surcharges vary by state of matter but are broadly between 10 and 20 %. ) There are a couple of noteworthy asterisks here. First, remember that automatic Wi-Fi connection part of Fi ‘s service ? Keep in beware that that actively works to help you use less mobile datum all throughout the day. In assessing your typical monthly mobile data consumption, think about whether you tend to be in or near places with public Wi-Fi that might help reduce your regular custom, as you presently know it. second, Fi will charge you alone up to the 6GB tag with an individual score. If you manage to go over 6GB of mobile data in any given calendar month, you ‘ll still pay just $ 60 — $ 10 per gig times six — for that calendar month ‘s custom. You can go all the way up to 15GB without paying another dime bag ; once you hit that 15GB check ( something Google says less than 1 % of individual Fi users ever do ), you ‘ll have the choice to get slower than common mobile data speeds at no extra monetary value or to start paying $ 10 per spear again for even fluid data speeds from that point fore. so, yea : If you ‘re routinely using 25GB of mobile data each month, you ‘d probably come out ahead with a different screen of arrangement. ( You might besides want to think about ways to cut rear on your data function ! ) But if you can keep your monthly use in the lower to mid-single-digit gigabyte count, on average, you could end up saving quite a bit of boodle with Fi ‘s pay-only-for-what-you-use apparatus .

Does Google Fi offer any group plans or anything like that?

It does ! Fi rolled out a group plan choice bet on in 2016, and it ‘s very a no-brainer if you have kin members or employees or co-workers ( in a relatively little organization ) who are using the service and might want to combine. The Fi group plan has the same effect setup as the regular design, but each extra person on the plan has a discounted nucleotide tip — $ 18 per person with two people, $ 17 per person with three, and $ 16 per person with four or more human mammals on the plan. then you still pay that lapp per-gigabyte rate for however much data is used, jointly. And your “ soap requital ” amount bumps up to 10GB for two people, 12GB for three, 14GB for four, 16GB for five, and 18GB for six people — so any use past that luff does n’t cost you any extra money ( though your speeds will still be slowed down if you go well over that mark ). The Fi app even has an option to set it up then that members of your plan get “ billed ” for their assign of the sum each month and can pay you back with a match of taps using Google Pay. As the basal account-holder, you besides have the ability to pause any extremity ‘s service or data at any steer in a bill cycle, should the need or inspiration ( bwah hah hah ) ever hit .

What about a large-group, enterprise-style option?

curiously enough, no such option exists — not so far, anyhow. As of now, Google ‘s Fi group setup goes up only to a six-person soap, so it might work for a humble business but would n’t be well-suited for a larger company, at least not in any traditional arrangement. The one exception might be if an arrangement is doing a bring-your-own-device-style apparatus in which employees pay for their own service and then get reimbursed ; in that site, it might actually be an matter to and potentially advantageous option. All of that being said, it certain seems like it ‘d make an amazing lot of sense for Google to bring Fi more wholeheartedly into the enterprise environment, specially now that the ship’s company ‘s actively developing its Google Voice servicing, making Voice work more harmoniously with Fi, and positioning Voice largely as an enterprise-friendly G Suite addition ( more on that in a moment ). With more and more emphasis being placed on G Suite and the setting of the G Suite services constantly expanding, you’d think Fi coming into the pen up would be the next coherent affect to make. possibly one of these days ?

Fi(ne). But does Fi have an “unlimited” option, too?

My, you ‘re astute. It does ! Google added an “ unlimited ” option into Fi fair last year, in fact. And it absolutely adds another ( slenderly overwhelming ) variable into the equation for you to consider.

For an individual drug user, Fi ‘s “ inexhaustible ” plan runs 70 bucks a month. For a group design with two people, it ‘s $ 60 per person per month ; for three, it ‘s $ 50 per person per month ; and for four or more, it ‘s $ 45 per person per calendar month. The “ outright ” arrangement besides comes with 100GB of extra storage space for each person through Google One, which would typically cost you $ 20 a year — so that ‘s surely something, though not a massive amount of add measure. Oh, and the reason why I keep putting “ unlimited ” in quotes ? The design, like most such offerings, is n’t actually outright in the fullest sense of the son ; rather, it gives you up to 22GB of high-speed mobile data per person per calendar month. If you go over that sum, you ‘ll still be able to use mobile data — but entirely at reduced speeds and with scaled-back television settlement .

All right, now I’m really confused. Should I do the “unlimited” plan or the pay-for-what-you-use option?

It ultimately fair comes down to a matter of mathematics — but unless you ‘re using a batch of mobile data in any given month, the pay-for-what-you-use option is credibly gon na be your better stake. ( It ‘s besides the more especial option, whereas the “ inexhaustible ” setup is more traditional and like to what other carriers offer. ) so let ‘s crunch some numbers : If you ‘re looking at Fi as an individual drug user, you ‘d have to plow through more than 5GB of mobile data on average per month for the “ outright ” plan to be the better distribute. Once you hit 5GB of data, you ‘d be looking at a $ 70 monthly charge — with the $ 20 base fee and then $ 10 per spear times five — at which target you could have just paid the flat $ 70 tip for the “ outright ” choice and gotten tied more data for your money. With two people in a plan, meanwhile, the “ inexhaustible ” plan would run you $ 120 full — therefore in the pay-for-what-you-use arrangement, you ‘d have to burn through 8.5GB of mobile data jointly to reach that lapp monetary value ( $ 35 combined infrastructure fee plus $ 10 per spear times 8.5 ). For perspective, my wife and I have a group plan together. If I look back over a holocene 12-month period ( before the pandemic, since things have been a bit curious as of late ), our average monthly mobile data use, jointly, is just shy of 2GB per calendar month. We have the periodic calendar month where we go higher — say, if one or both of us is traveling and away from Wi-Fi networks and frankincense doing more mobile-data stream than usual — but it all comes down to averages : If you use an average of 2GB of mobile data per month, your bill comes out to about $ 55 for two people. even at 5GB in a month, you ‘d be looking at only $ 85 total for those same two people compared to $ 120 on the “ unlimited ” way. And consider, excessively, that with the current pandemic site, a service like Fi could save you some good boodle, since you ‘re credibly using a set less mobile data than you normally do. The very nature of Fi ‘s frame-up means you pay less when you use less, and therefore this atypical menstruation of custom will result in lower monthly bills — potentially much lower bills, if you ‘re largely staying at home plate these days. ( To wit : With no fluid data custom, your Fi bill would basically be 20 bucks a calendar month for a single person. ) Everyone ‘s different and alone you can do the mathematics for your own specific needs, but realistically, I ‘d say that even in more normal times, the huge majority of folks credibly are n’t gon na go through adequate mobile data on average ( or need to go through enough mobile data, particularly with Fi ‘s Wi-Fi-connecting feature of speech in the picture ) to make the “ inexhaustible ” choice worthwhile .

What about roaming? Surely Fi screws you when you go out of the country, like every other carrier — right?

amazingly, no ; this is another matchless of the military service ‘s especial features, peculiarly if you travel internationally with any regularity ( you lucky son of a dolphin, you ). so here it is : Fi charges you the same standard per-gigabyte rate all over the world — in 200-plus countries. You get loose texting in all those places, besides. You do end up paying for cellular articulation calls, but even those rates are n’t broadly that bad, relatively speaking .

What if I live outside of the U.S.? Can I still sign up for Fi?

As of now, Google ‘s making Fi available merely in the States — which technically means you have to activate the service within the U.S., using a U.S. address and credit card. Sorry, external pals .

Can I use my phone as a mobile hotspot?

Yes, indeedly. And there ‘s no extra charge for doing therefore ; you good pay that same standard flat per-gigabyte rate for any data you use, careless of how you ‘re sharing it or what device is actually tapping into it .

What if I want to put a SIM card into a tablet, laptop, or other connected device? How much does Fi charge for that privilege?

Nada — zero, slide fastener, nothing, zebra. ( That last password was a test to see if you were distillery paying care. If you noticed it, congratulations. If not, WAKE UP ! ) Google Fi lets you claim up to four data-only SIMs for your account and use them in any devices you want. You can arrange the SIMs free from the Fi app or web site, and all you pay is the lapp per-gigabyte rate you ‘d pay for mobile data practice from your call. That means any extra devices basically become extensions of your main Fi earphone — which is another powerful fringe benefit that opens up plenty of interest possibilities .

Contracts? Commitments? Cancellation fees? There’s gotta be some way this thing is out to get me…

Your incredulity is apprehensible, Mr. and/or Mrs. Crankypants, but I ‘m telling you : Fi does n’t play those distinctive mailman games. other than the fact that if you use a short ton of mobile data per calendar month, it probably wo n’t make fiscal sense to you — and that the “ outright ” option comes with a max-out point in terms of the sincerely outright, highest-possible-speed data — there in truth are n’t any hidden fees, asterisks, or other “ gotchas ” to report. ( I ‘ve been using the service myself since 2015, so if there were any such catches, I ‘d surely have noticed ’em by immediately. )

Will any phone work with Fi?

More or less — and kind of. Let me explain : Fi has a minor number of phones that are explicitly designed for its military service — including Google ‘s own Pixel devices, as you ‘d expect, and a handful of early particularly adapted handsets. Those phones give you the broad Fi feel, with the multi-network interchange, the automatic pistol public Wi-Fi connect, and the always-on VPN protection choice. You can, however, besides use Fi with most other reasonably late Android phones or tied iPhones. equally long as a device is unlock and compatible with T-Mobile ‘s network, it ‘ll about surely work on Fi — at least, from a technical position. That ‘s always been truthful, despite the fact that Google alone recently started promoting it and officially supporting such far-flung compatibility. But take note : With a phone that is n’t designed explicitly to be used with Google Fi, you wo n’t get that aforementioned broad Fi feel. That means no multi-network switching — rather, your device will connect lone to T-Mobile, in the U.S. — plus no automatic public Wi-Fi connect and no always-on VPN protection. What you will get is the pay-only-for-what-you-use, hidden-fee-free charge apparatus, if you so choose, along with the standard-rate international data cost. But you ‘re basically getting that merely with regular T-Mobile service here in the States, which takes a bit of the shine off of Fi ‘s appeal. besides, with raw accounts, Google Fi is presently limiting you to a certain subset of approved devices. ( You can search the wide list here. ) even if an older earphone is technically compatible with Fi — and would work with it, if you were to slap an active SIM menu inside — Google wo n’t activate an explanation unless you have one of those formally supported models .

Do I have to buy a Fi-designed phone from Google Fi directly in order for it to work right?

Nope — you could buy a Pixel telephone, for case, from Google, Best Buy, or wherever, and it ‘d still work fine and give you the wax Fi feel adenine soon as you slide that SIM card inside ( or activate it electronically ). The same applies for most other Fi-designed phones, excessively, though if you ‘re thinking of getting anything other than a device ‘s unlock model, you may want to check the Fi compatibility locate good to make sure it shows up as having full “ designed for Fi ” support. Fi does sell all such devices directly through its web site, with options for financing, trade-ins, and device protection plans. It besides tends to run a fair sum of deals — including dropped prices and bundled-in Fi credits with new device purchases. So it ‘s surely worth shopping around a snatch and then seeing how Fi ‘s own offerings compare to what you find elsewhere .

Can I port in my existing number to Google Fi?

Yup — whether it ‘s a cellular telephone issue or even a land line number. Nothin ‘ to it .

What if I’m using Google Voice now?

You ‘ve got a couple of options. First, you can plainly transfer your Google Voice number over to Fi when you sign up — and you ‘ll still get most ( but not all ) of the significant Voice features, albeit in slenderly different Fi forms ( field-grade officer, fum ). You can besides constantly transfer your number bet on come out of the closet late, if you decide to stop using Fi and want to go back to Google Voice down the road. As of precisely this calendar month, you can besides have a separate Fi and Voice number on the same Google account, so you could keep your current issue connected to Google Voice, sign up for a raw numeral with Google Fi, and then use the Voice app on your Fi call to make and receive calls and messages from your existing Voice number. ( My head hurts. ) I wrote a draw more on this subject and the scheme possibilities it presents in this column, if you want to explore the area with me further .

Can I use any texting app I want with Google Fi?

sure can. formally, Google suggests using its own Messages app ( naturally ) or Hangouts ( at least, for the moment ), but any Android texting app will work good very well .

This all sounds dandy, Randy, but what if I need some help along the way?

well, Gilby, lem me tell ya : Google Fi does n’t have any forcible retail stores ( yet, anyhow ), but it does have 24/7 phone, new world chat, and electronic mail support — which has by and large been relatively properly in my experience and far less likely to make me want to gouge my eyes out than most other carrier support systems I ‘ve had the displeasure of using .

Okay, I think I’ve got this. Very important query before we wrap up, though: Does Fi ever make you crave pie or rye?

Aye .

And mai tai? Eh, guy?

I wo n’t dignify with a reply .

What about Thai? Or chicken thigh (after a fry)?

Sigh. Goodbye.

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