Native Nerd Review: The Google Fi Smartphone Network - A GREAT cell plan option
Ok, so I have been trying Google’s cellphone/smartphone plan option and I have been pretty impressed.
“WAIT!” You say. “Google has a cell plan option? I didn’t even know that!”
I know, I didn’t know it either until about 6 months ago. I reached out to the Google team and more specifically the Google Fi team to learn all about the plan. My initial concerns were as follows: I wanted to know the coverage areas, how fast is the service? would I be able to download apps quickly? What was the call sound quality, How was streaming video and music and more.
Before I get too much into it, I will tell you this. It is remarkably comparable to Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T. In fact, I couldn’t find much of a difference in speeds and many times it was a lot better than Sprint. (In my experience, Sprint tends to get bogged down on downloading apps, which gets annoying, while Google Fi had not ever stopped, or got stifled downloading apps from Google Play.)
So - I buckled down and I have personally used Google Fi over the past few months, here is a description of what Google Fi is and how you might be able to use it.
What is Google Fi?
In a nutshell, Google Fi is Google’s cellphone coverage network. Specifically, Google piggybacks off of T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular in order to bring you—in my experience anyway—a large 4G LTE network ... But I seemed to connect quite often to 3G that is, according to the little notification in my smartphone upper notification bar.
At first, alarm bells went off for me as I automatically equated 4G LTE as the fastest network coverage and thought 3G was going to slow my usage to a crawl, but, surprisingly to me it didn’t. I am sure some of you might notice a difference, but I just didn’t in my experience.
But what phone do I use?
Google Fi offers a selection of smartphones, but you can easily use your own device if it is unlocked. If you have completely paid for a device, you can call the cellphone provider to unlock it.
You can purchase a phone with Google Fi here: https://fi.google.com/about/phones/
Check your phone’s compatibility here: https://fi.google.com/compatibility
How much does Google Fi cost?
Plans start at $20 bucks a line for unlimited talk and text with an additional $10 bucks per one gig of data used per month. It caps out at 6 gigs or sixty bucks. Throw in a smartphone at about $40 and if you are a traveling data guzzler, you could be paying up to $120. Comparable with a Verizon plan. If you don’t use much data, and already have a phone, you will probably be paying about $40 bucks a month. Google only charges you for what you use, which is the nicest thing about your monthly bill. It is absolutely fair.
Fyi, you pay the same price in 200+ countries as you do at your own home for roaming, and you can also pause your plan at any time.
Pause or stop service at any time
Have a rowdy teenager that gets grounded or maybe needs to pull back on usage? You can employ parental restrictions, or pause the service altogether.
Traveling for a bit or just want to pause service for a day to get away from it all? Go ahead with a few clicks in the Google Fi app.
Where is coverage?
Everywhere. It is genuinely comparable to any other service plans out there. Considering three networks are available to tap into the network - it is pretty comparable across the board. In my travels across Virginia, including some rural locations, I personally didn’t notice a drop in service.
You can check for coverage in your area here: https://fi.google.com/coverage
So all said, who should get Google Fi?
Ok, all said and done and with all my research and inquiries taken into account, I am comfortable in saying anyone who is largely tied into wifi at home and wifi at work could do very well with a Google Fi plan.
During a month where I didn’t travel and had used a phone without a payment, my bill for the month was less than thirty bucks. My Verizon bill, with unlimited text and data, is about $120. For the most part, I am tied into 4G with Verizon, and even when I am traveling my Google Fi service plan would be less.
I have some serious thinking to do.
Here is a list of people that would likely benefit from Google Fi
Users with wifi at home and work and mostly use their phones there
Teens who need a cheaper plan
Grannies aunties and uncles, moms and dads that are more budget conscious than others
Someone with their own phone who just wants a cheap plan
People who use very little data (Data is used with such apps as YouTube, Music streaming, Instagram stories etc.)
People who only want a phone for texting, phone calls, occasional apps
People who might not want Google Fi
If you use a ton of data or want the best only fastest 4G / 5G network connections.
All said - It’s a GREAT plan
One nice caveat with Google Fi was the 24-hour 7-days-a-week customer service that could be accessed super-quickly on my smartphone in chat or synchronized on my computer. I genuinely marveled at the integration with this feature. It also didn’t hurt I was able to reach out at 11 o’clock at night with zero problems.
It is easy to get started, you can contact Google Fi to try out a free sim card, just put it in an unlocked device and it connects within minutes. You can get a new number or port the one you already have.
If you have a Google device like the Pixel 2 or Pixel 3, you don't even need a sim card, just access Google Fi and start the process to enable the e-sim. In minutes you are ready to go.
Check out plans and options here - https://fi.google.com/about/plan/
Make sure to check your phone’s compatibility on the Google Fi site. I tried several phones to include the Samsung Note 8, Google Pixel 3 XL and the iPhone XS Max. They all worked within minutes with no issues. The only hiccup was with a Samsung Galaxy S9+ on the Sprint Network. But then I remembered my phone was not unlocked.
Give this plan a shot, you might be pleased, but more than anything else, it will most likely cost you a lot less money. As I said, I am seriously beginning to question the money I shell out for Verizon.
Here is a $20 referral link for signing up for Google Fi. https://g.co/fi/r/2H6DM6. If you have a friend or family member with Google Fi - use their referral link instead, and you will both get $20 off. Any money off is better with your friends or family.
Make sure to check out my Pixel 3 XL review
#NativeNerd Review: An awesome fun user-friendly phone - Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL
Follow fellow Native Nerd, Vincent Schilling associate editor for Indian Country Today at @VinceSchilling - Make sure to use the Hashtag #NativeNerd