Some time ago I switched my cell phone service to Google’s Project Fi. My first impressions, not surprisingly, were unrealistically positive. Being that I am a fan of Google, and believing that Google can do no wrong, I knew that I could not write about them objectively without waiting until the newness and novelty wore off. I think I have reached that time.
You may be wondering, “What is Project Fi?” Rather than try to describe it, I recommend you Google it and read the plethora of descriptions already available all over the Internet. I’m just going to get right into my impressions of it.
The primary reason for my switch was to reduce my phone bill. I was with Verizon before, and I was not unhappy with their service. I just do not like paying in excess of $70 every month. In my opinion, that is a large phone bill. I wasn’t really looking for an alternative. I literally stumbled across a story about Project Fi by accident and loved the concept. But how does their pricing work in real life? They claim that their service is $20 per month for unlimited talk and text, and exactly $10 per gigabyte of data used, charged for just the amount you use. If you only use 250 megabytes of data, they only charge you about $2.50 for it. Well, it’s true. My first bill with them was $34.59, paying for the first month’s 1 gigabyte of data up front. My second bill, having only used .452 GB of data, the bill was $29.11 after they refunded the unused data cost. My third bill was $28.73 (.413 GB used). My bill has been cut to less than half what it was before.
Here’s the thing, I also use much less data than before. I was on an account with 12 GB shared three ways, so there was no reason to conserve data. My share was 4 GB, so I used it. I was paying for it, so why not use it? But with Project Fi, if I don’t use the data, I’m not charged for it. There is an incentive to conserve. An unintended side effect is a change in my behavior around my use of data. If I don’t really need to use the data, I don’t because it directly costs me money. A lot of the reasons I used data before I now wait until I get home, or on Wi-Fi somewhere.
Coverage is a huge factor in cell phone service. The best pricing in the world doesn’t matter with poor coverage. In this regard, Project Fi is inferior to Verizon. Even though they use three cell services (Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular) and Wi-Fi, I often find myself in areas where mobile data is not available. This includes at my house. However, I have Wi-Fi at the house, so that fills in that hole. Actually, I don’t get any cell signal at my house at all. Verizon is the only cell carrier that provides service where I live. But with the Wi-Fi, that is not an issue. The downside, if the power at the house goes out, the Internet will no longer work, so my cell phone will also stop working. None of these issues cause the service to not work for my needs, but they are issues that have to be acknowledged. If you live in a city, these issues will likely not apply. I do live in the boonies. As for areas where mobile data is not available, they are primarily in rural areas, and voice calls are still clear. The only downside is it negatively affects being able to start navigation assistance with Google Maps.
One oddity with Project Fi is its limitations on handsets. You have to use one of three Google Nexus phones. That is not a con for me, as I wanted the Nexus 6P anyway. This was just a really good excuse to buy one. My experience with the 6P has been nothing short of amazing. Everything about the phone is awesome. It is a flagship phone with great system specs and no manufacturer bloatware. It’s the plain Android OS with no fluff. The phone is just fast. I’ll never go back to a non-Google phone again. The Samsung Galaxy 5 that I switched from is a good phone, but it was held back by a lot of Samsung and Verizon crap installed on top of the OS that could not be removed without voiding the warranty. The Nexus line may be ending, but Google is replacing them with phones branded the Pixel and Pixel XL. Time will tell if they are worthy successors to the Nexus lineup. I hope they are.
Overall I am pleased with Project Fi. It has its quirks, but it excels a few key points that truly matter. The phones are the best of Android, the coverage is just passable, but the price is unmatched. Where else can I get a sub $30 cell phone bill? Nuf said.