I’m always looking for the next big thing and I thought Project Fi might be it. Google’s new cell phone service, Project Fi, offers free data and texting in more than 120 countries worldwide — and with Wi-Fi calling, you can even make phone calls abroad (with your normal phone number) at no extra charge.
I already had international data and texting with T-Mobile, but I was looking for something better because the service within the United States is patchy. Since Project Fi offers service through T-Mobile and Sprint combined (plus Wi-Fi based calls), I assumed my coverage would get better. Two other advantages were a lower monthly bill for the same amount of data and faster international speeds (3G with Project Fi vs 2G with T-Mobile).
The Basics of Project Fi
Project Fi keeps prices low because the phone defaults to using Wi-Fi whenever there’s a strong enough connection.
If you’ve ever chatted on FaceTime, Skype, Google Voice, or other apps, you know that Wi-Fi calls can be high quality. When that’s not available, Google Voice claims to seamlessly transfer you over to either T-Mobile or Sprint towers…even if you’re in the middle of a call. Data and texting work much the same way, with Wi-Fi being the default coverage.
Plans start at $20/month for unlimited talk and text and then you pay $10 per 1 GB of data thereafter. So, if you typically use 3GB of data, plan on spending a total of $50/month.
NEW: Activate service using this link by January 11 and get a $20 Google credit after you keep Project Fi service for at least 30 days.
If you use less, they’ll actually refund you on the unused data and if you use more, they’ll charge you accordingly at the same rate.
As a downside, only two phones are compatible with Project Fi service, so most customers will have to buy a new phone. I chose the Nexus 5X since my previous phone was a Nexus 5 that I loved. If purchased with a plan (no contracts!), it’s only $199. The Nexus 6P is also available — and much more expensive.
Project Fi for Travelers
As noted, Project Fi currently includes international data and texting in 125+ countries, which is perfect for travelers. I’ve come to rely on apps like Google Maps to get me around, not to mention on-the-go email service to stay on top of work while I’m away. Being able to make and receive FREE calls when on Wi-Fi is a huge bonus (and when you’re roaming internationally, calls to/from the United States are $0.20/minute — reasonable for emergencies, but can add up for “just catching up”).
…And Then I Cancelled Project Fi
After two weeks of Project Fi service, I cancelled. Even with T-Mobile and Sprint coverage combined, I found a lot of dead spots — ironically, more so than when I had T-Mobile alone. I don’t have a good explanation for that, only that I didn’t think my U.S. based coverage could get worse until it actually did.
When on Wi-Fi, my calls had a lot of static and a few callers complained that I was breaking up. When I dropped a call while on the phone with an important client even though I hadn’t moved from the spot I was in for the first 10 minutes of the call, I knew it was time to cancel.
I never got a chance to test Project Fi abroad because it was so terrible in the United States, across five states and numerous cities during my service period.
The Silver Lining
Project Fi offers refunds on your phone when returned within 15 days, so there’s little risk. Switching from T-Mobile at the beginning of my service was simple and switching from Project Fi at the end was easy too. I’ve kept my number throughout the process and have nothing but good things to say about Google Project Fi’s customer service.
So Now What?
As a frequent traveler and business owner, having connectivity abroad is more of a necessity than a novelty, so I’ll be re-evaluating my options and maybe experimenting a little more. All I know at the moment is that Project Fi isn’t the answer for me.
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Read More on The Girl and Globe:
- T-Mobile: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: I used T-Mobile, both in the U.S. and internationally, for two years. Find out what I loved (and what I hated).
- My Ultimate Guide to the Best Travel Gear: Find out the brands and companies I love. They’re tried, tested, and true!
- What is a VPN? (Plus Why TunnelBear is the Best Free VPN): If you travel frequently, a VPN is a great way to keep your internet history and transactions secure.