Google’s Project Fi Review
I was a T-Mobile customer for a million years (er, slightly less—but still probably a decade) and I dreaded the day that they’d merge with another (awful) carrier. I was very happy with T-Mobile, as long as I didn’t have to speak with their customer service department, which still sends me bills for service I never had. (ARHGGH.) The rates were good enough, but for me the main thing was its international service, which included free overseas low-speed data in almost every country in the world, at no extra fee.
I hadn’t even heard of Project Fi until I read about it in an interview with Tom Turcich, who is currently walking around the world. Project Fi is Google’s telephone service. It starts at $80 a month, with $20 of that going to unlimited domestic calls and texting, international texts, and wifi hotspot tethering. International calls are an additional $.10 a minute. Data charges make up the other $60 of the monthly bill, charged at $10 a gigabyte—so 6 GB are included. I have never used under 6GB, but if you do, you’ll get money back. Data speeds are throttled over 15GB. Without thinking about it much, I tend to use around 8GB per month, with home wifi use and no super-heavy downloading otherwise. My bill has tended to be around $100 a month, with most of that $20 coming from international calls I’m making away from my wifi network. I could tamp that down if I were more restrictive making international calls away from wifi and really cutting down on my data usage.
Here’s what’s so great: Unlike T-Mobile, Project Fi offers unlimited high-speed data roaming. I can’t even say what a big difference this is. With T-Mobile’s data service, I would constantly be looking for a wifi connection—it was good in a pinch, but no more. Project Fi’s data speed is almost indistinguishable from my French phone, which runs on a fast local network. Half the time I end up using my Project Fi phone instead of my French one, because I like my Google Pixel better than the iPhone attached to my French account.
Speaking of: If you move to Project Fi, you’ll need to use of their (very select) range of phones. I didn’t qualify for financing (which frankly seemed weird, since I did for every other cell phone provider out there), so I paid for my Google Pixel upfront even though it meant putting off signing up for the service for a couple months. (I ended up liking this—it’s nice to not feel like I’m paying down a debt every month, as I always did with T-Mobile.) I love my Pixel—whenever I use my iPhone I find myself wishing I weren’t.
As for the coverage: My Project Fi coverage actually seems slightly better overseas than at home—there have been a few times I’ve had to work to find a good signal, in more rural areas near home. This is a hassle, but it’s not enough of one that I’d ever consider going back to a traditional cellular operator. AT&T? Seriously—never. Never.
American cell phone service is still a disgusting rip off. (For the record, in France, I pay about $120 for my cable TV service, home wifi, and landline and cell phone both with free calls to the U.S.—combined for everything, thanks to a lack of monopolies here.) And I don’t like giving even more of my data to Google than they already have. That said: My Project Fi review is positive—in my experience, it’s absolutely the best offering out there, especially if you’re traveling internationally and especially double if you’re looking for a post-merger alternative to T-Mobile. I don’t know how long it will last, but I’ll be using it as long as it does.