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Google Project Fi Long-term Review

In a world of "unlimited" data, this low-cost cell phone service is all about data-efficiency.

The battle for your cellular business is heating up, and it has never been a better time to be a consumer. Everyone is going “unlimited” and even Verizon has jumped back into the ring to compete with the current offerings from T-mobile and Sprint. But how many users are actually taking advantage of that unlimited data? With Wi-Fi ubiquitous in many areas, some people are looking to avoid an expensive -- and often unnecessary -- “unlimited” phone plan.

That's where Google's cell service came in with the launch of  Project Fi back in 2015. This hassle-free and affordable mobile option was initially invite-only, but the network is now open to all. So what better time for a Project Fi review to help you figure out if the service is worth it. We're here to help you find out what Project Fi is all about, and whether it may be a better option than those expensive unlimited plans.

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What Is Project Fi?

Google’s Project Fi is all about data-efficiency. The service automatically switches between Wi-Fi and different 4G LTE data networks to intelligently handle your connectivity. While many service providers have developed similar systems, they still typically rely on a single 4G LTE network. Project Fi's data connection, on the other hand, is handled through a partnership with T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular.

As a result, a device on the Project Fi network automatically detects and connects to the strongest of the three network providers for improved reliability. Project Fi’s system also connects to trusted public Wi-Fi locations to minimize cellular data usage while out in the world.

Project Fi Pricing

Project Fi has "one simple plan for everyone," with a single line of basic service. Unlimited domestic talk and text, unlimited international texting, Wi-Fi hotspot, and 24/7 support costs $20 per month, plus $10 for each GB of data used. Therefore, a plan with 1GB of data will only cost you $30/month plus taxes and regulatory fees (about $2-$3 each month). Additionally, you only pay for the data you use. So if you use less than 1GB, your bill would even be less than $30.

You can add up to five additional people to your Project Fi plan for an additional $15/month per user, with data shared across all devices. This can be very cost effective for a large family -- six users sharing 6 GB of data comes down to $25.83/line per month (plus taxes and fees).

Google Offers "Unlimited Data" With Project Fi Bill Protection

Project Fi also has added Bill Protection to keep costs down on months when you need more data. With this update, someone on a single person plan only pays $10/GB of data up to 6GB. After that, you won't be charged for any additional data. No more worries of a $100+ bill because you streamed an entire movie instead of playing the downloaded copy. You'd simply pay the $20 standard line fee and then $60, for a total of $80.

Of course, there's always a catch. Data speeds are slowed after 15GB of data for the single user plan only. Additionally, the Bill Protection plan changes based on the number of users on your Group Plan. See the chart below for more information:

A Look Inside Google's Family Link

With the introduction of Google's Family Link, an app for children under 13 years old, Project Fi users can now add and manage plans for their kids on one account. Once Family Link is set up on the child's device, just add them to a Project Fi group plan and pay the normal $15/line. From there you can approve any apps your child tries to download, monitor screen time, and even remotely lock their device. With the ability to use a Project Fi data-only SIM, you can also utilize Project Fi shared data and Family Link with most tablet devices.

What Phones Can You Use With Project Fi?

Previously, Project Fi's phone selection was limited to only the Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6, and Pixel devices. But criticism about the lack of choices has encouraged Google to add several new devices (though no Apple products, your options are distinctly Google cell phones). These include the Moto X4, Moto G6, and the LG G37 ThinQ and V35 ThinQ. With the addition of the Moto G6 and X4, you can now spend less than $300 to take advantage of the network.

All the new devices can be purchased from Google directly and financed interest-free as part of your plan. You can also purchase any of the currently supported devices used or unlocked from another retailer and use the "Bring Your Own Phone" program.

How Is Project Fi's Mobile App?

As you'd expect from Google, the Project Fi mobile application is intuitive and very user-friendly. You can quickly pause your service, add a new person to your plan, monitor data usage and get customer support 24/7. The phone support menu even shows the current estimated wait time.

With that said, there are downsides to not having a brick-and-mortar location. While Project Fi does warranty their devices, we've seen various complaints online about having to authorize a temporary credit card charge for a new replacement phone until the broken phone is mailed in. So while support over the phone and online chat are fast, the process for repairs or replacements can be more complicated and is something to consider before purchase.

Project Fi's International Service Benefits

International data costs the normal rate of $10/GB through Project Fi. Additionally, calls are unlimited on Wi-Fi and it's just 2 cents per minute for network calls. Finally, more than 170 countries are covered with the plan, which is a major benefit to anyone who travels regularly.

Does Project Fi Offer Unlimited Streaming For Google-Owned Media?

Many potential customers assume that Project Fi offers free streaming of Google-owned apps like Google Play Music or YouTube. Unfortunately, because Google utilizes the network and infrastructure of other providers, they aren't able to add that perk. Streaming from those services will still count toward your data usage.

Curious if YouTube Music Premium is right for you? Check out our review here.

Google Project Fi Phone Service Review

Initial setup is done online and I activated a used Nexus 6 by simply popping in a SIM card that Project Fi mailed to me. Based on my data usage with older plans, I set up my account with the 2GB plan for $40/month. However, your plan can be changed at any time, and even paused or canceled completely through the Project Fi app.

The first noticeable benefit of Project Fi was the crystal-clear Wi-Fi calling and improved service range. Most cellular providers have poor reception at my home, but Wi-Fi calling removed problems with dropped calls. Project Fi's automatic connection to trusted Wi-Fi networks is also very helpful. At a coffee shop or restaurant with an open Wi-Fi service, your device connects automatically and is secured through the Project Fi application, ultimately saving your data for when you really need it.

You may still want to rethink how you use that data, though. For example, instead of streaming, I will auto-download my podcasts and download albums locally through Google Play Music while on Wi-Fi. That way I only use my cellular data for things like getting directions, looking up restaurants, social media applications, etc.

Project Fi's 4G LTE network speed is competitive with most providers -- it's using their infrastructure, after all. On average, I see download speeds ranging from 10 Mbps to 30Mbps. Upload speeds range from 1 Mbps to 6 Mbps. After several years of use on Project Fi, my average bill has only been around $43/month. The highest bill I’ve had was $53 and the lowest was $35.

Check out our review of the Moto X4 here!

I traded in my original Nexus 6 to Project Fi and purchased their new Moto X4. The trade-in process was simple and Project Fi gave an added value incentive for trading in my Nexus to them directly. I was also able to finance the cost of the phone as part of my bill, just like with other major carriers.

After years of service, I've had no problems with either the network reliability or customer service of Project Fi. The improvements in phone selection and added Bill Protection only help reassure my decision to switch from Republic Wireless.

Is Google's Project Fi Worth It?

Obviously, Google’s Project Fi isn’t going to work for every user. If you wanted a specific phone that's not covered by the service, you're basically out of luck. Additionally, the service may not be the best option if you're away from a Wi-Fi connection for most of the day. However, several of my friends and family members on more expensive “unlimited” plans reported that their average data consumption was less than 3GB per month, and it's likely Project Fi would be a more cost effective option for them. Plus, with Bill Protection, there's even less need to worry about an outrageous bill.

Ultimately, if you're simply going from your home Wi-Fi to your work Wi-Fi and back most days, Project Fi is definitely worth a look. You could get the same coverage as the big name providers on a variety of devices at a faction of the cost.

*****

What would your cell phone bill look like if you switched to Project Fi? Do some quick math and place your results in the comments. It'll be interesting to see how many people really need unlimited data.

Check out all Slickdeals cell phone plan and service deals here!



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Nolan Browning Contributor

Nolan is an avid automotive, electronic, and gadget enthusiast. If it has an engine or a processor, he can't keep his hands off it. He was introduced to Windows 3.1 in the early '90s and has been hooked ever since. Deal alerts include "mechanical keyboard," "smart watch," and "bulk candy."


61 Comments

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Our community has rated this post as helpful. If you agree, why not rep andrew_chen?
#2
I went from $78/month with T-Mobile to about $35/month with Project Fi. I'm always around Wi-Fi so the switch has been worth it!
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#3
Quote from andrew_chen
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I went from $78/month with T-Mobile to about $35/month with Project Fi. I'm always around Wi-Fi so the switch has been worth it!
Same here. I never went over 500 megs a month until my work dropped the wifi. Still don't go over a gig. It's really nice that it hops on any open wifi connection. Some I have to click on a banner page, but overall it's been great. There's a lot of TWC/Spectrum wifi connections around me too. One thing I've noticed is in certain areas. If I initiate a call, it takes 10 seconds to hear a dial tone. Happy with my 6p though
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#4
Just for reference, you're only charged actual cellular data use, not for wifi-assisted service data use, right? Tmobile was the first to allow wifi-assisting but it still counted those as minutes. In fact, when I went on a cruise, there was wifi but tmobile still attempted to charge me for international phonecalls even though they were made on google voice.
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#5
I'm currently paying $106 per month on Sprint, and could see this getting me down to the 40s, but I like the idea of upgrading my iPhone anytime.
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#6
Same here, one of the things i hate is the very limited phones you can use in full potential with project fi
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Quote from BostonBatman
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Just for reference, you're only charged actual cellular data use, not for wifi-assisted service data use, right? Tmobile was the first to allow wifi-assisting but it still counted those as minutes. In fact, when I went on a cruise, there was wifi but tmobile still attempted to charge me for international phonecalls even though they were made on google voice.
You don't pay for minutes because it's unlimited minutes and unlimited texts. But yes, wifi is not counted towards your data usage. That's the point of Fi, to not use up a ton of data but rather rely on the wifi that's all around us
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#8
My highest bill was a month I started a new job and did not have a wifi connection and it was $53.

I have had mixed results with service as well. New Orleans and Los Angeles were awful but I had full LTE on a remote Yasawi Island in Fiji.

I am glad I made the switch. The nexus 5x works well and has a nice dashboard. Google gives you 3 months of free play credit and unlimited music downloads and ad-free youtube are $10/month after that.

I have not seen one of their Fi boxes in airports or whatever but I hope to soon Smilie
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Last edited by sa1126 February 27, 2017 at 08:17 PM.
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#9
I've had Google fi for over a year. My average bill is $32. I travel the world, been to Mexico, Germany, France, Costa Rica, and the $10/G worked great. Whenever I had WIFI, I could make free calls back to the states. So to answer your question, no there is no charge for calling over WIFI to the US. Now I hear there is a fee for WIFI calling to someplace outside the US.
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Not mentioned: When my phone is on Sprint network it drains the battery really fast. 2) Switching between networks doesn't go smoothly you get discontented. 3) it could take a while for a phone call to connect when the phone can't decide to go thru a network or Wifi. 4) when on wifi there's sometimes an annoying voice echo/delay I have to hang up and call again.
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#11
I have really enjoyed my experience on Fi after handing Sprint $100/month for a decade of unlimited data!

Google will also send you a free data-only SIM with no extra line fee which is really nice for a tablet or smartwatch. I actually use it in a cheap burner for going out on the weekends. Their SIM cards have worked in all of the unlocked devices I've tossed it in with T-Mobile's network.
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I love traveling internationally and not having to freak out about roaming data usage :-)
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Quote from BostonBatman
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Just for reference, you're only charged actual cellular data use, not for wifi-assisted service data use, right? Tmobile was the first to allow wifi-assisting but it still counted those as minutes. In fact, when I went on a cruise, there was wifi but tmobile still attempted to charge me for international phonecalls even though they were made on google voice.
Google voice only initiates the call, you still use the cellular connection.
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#14
The service is great, truly - other than not being unlimited.

The downside is being forced to buy an expensive wannabe-iPhone. I have been onboard since before Pixel, and am disappointed in my Nexus 5x... It was more of a sideways move from my 2 year old Galaxy S5, but at least only cost $250.

So phone selection - or lack thereof - and specifically that the only phones they have today are terrible on the bang-for-the-buck scale (you are paying for a metal jewelryphone - a wannabe iPhone) - is the downside.

It's so bad I likely will jump ship when this 5x gives up the ghost.
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#15
I was on project Fi but I needed more data so I went to mintsim. Project Fi is only viable for people who travel outside of the united states with their overseas rate being the same and the US rate
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