What is Google Fi? How does it work? - Tamil Tech

Jul 20, 2017

What is Google Fi? How does it work?

Google's Project Fi is Google's first effort at becoming a wireless phone company in the US. Rather than buying a wireless carrier or building their own towers, Google chose to lease space from existing wireless carriers. Google is also offering an innovative new pricing model for their phone service through Project Fi. Will this save you money? In some cases, it almost certainly would save money, but there are some strings attached.

There's no cancellation fee or contract with Google, but that may not be the case with your old carrier. Check to see what fees would apply. It may make more sense to wait for your contract to expire. 

How Does Google Fi Work?

Google Fi works in many ways like regular cell phone service. You can use your phone to make phone calls, text, and use apps. Google bills your credit card. You can also group up to six family members together under the same account and share data. 

Data is not unlimited, but you only pay for the data you actually use rather than paying for the potential to use that data as you do in some plans. Unlike traditional networks. Google Fi uses a combination of towers they lease from different phone networks. However, those phone networks use a combination of  both GSM and CDMA towers. This is phone world equivalent of an appliance that is both AC/DC.

Currently, Google Fi leases space from US Cellular, Sprint, and T-Mobile - and that means you get the combined coverage of all three networks.




Traditionally, wireless carriers would use either GSM or CDMA, and phone manufacturers would put one type of antenna in their phone or the other. It's only recently that "quad-band" phones with both types of antennas have become more common. However, to really take advantage of different towers and different networks, Google designed a way for compatible phones to rapidly switch between these different towers to give you the strongest signal.


Other phones already do this - but non-compatible phones only have to switch between towers on the same band. 

Google Fi Changes Google Voice:

Your Google Voice number works differently with Project Fi. If you have a Google Voice number, you can do one of three things with it when you start using Google Fi:

Use your Google Voice number instead of transferring your cell phone number 
Delete your Google Voice number permanently 
Transfer your Google Voice number to a different Google account (one that isn't the primary account for your Google Fi number)
Start fresh with a completely new phone number and delete both your old cell number and your Google Voice number
If you use your Google Voice number, you won't be able to use the Google Voice web app or Google Talk anymore. However, you can still use Hangouts to check your messages or send texts from the web, so you're really only giving up the old Google Voice interface.

If you transfer your Google Voice number, you won't be able to forward calls to your Project Fi phone number. You can, however, use the Google Voice app on your phone - as long as you're using a secondary Google account. 

Google Fi Pricing

Your total average monthly cost would include your base fee, data use, phone purchase price (if necessary) and taxes.


You should also consider hidden costs, such as early cancellation fees from your current carrier. 

Google Fi Compatible Phones

In order to use Google Project Fi, you need to have a phone that will work with the service. As of this writing, it includes only the following Android phones (phones don't stay in stock for long, so some might not be available right now):

Pixel ($649-850, depending on size and options) or  around $27-$35 per month)
Nexus 6p ($399) $16.63 per month
Nexus 5X ($199) $10.38 per month
The monthly payments are no interest, so even if you opt to buy the phones outright now, use the monthly payment to calculate the total cost of your Google Fi plan.

If you already have one of the qualified Nexus or Pixel phones, you don't have to replace it. You can just order a new SIM card at no charge. 

The reason Google makes you replace your phone is because Google Fi rapidly switches between the different cell towers from Sprint, US Cellular, and T-Mobile and the Nexus and Pixel phones have antennas that were specifically designed for the task. The phones are also unlocked quad-band phones, so if you ever decide Project Fi is no longer for you, they're ready to be used on any major US network. 

Google Project Fi Charges

Google Fi costs $20 for one account for basic cell service - meaning unlimited voice and text. You can link up to six family members for $15 per account. 

Each gig of data costs $10 per month, which you can order in increments of up to 3 gigs per month. However, that's really just for budgeting purposes. If you don't use the data, you don't pay for it. Family accounts share this data across all lines. There's no charge for tethering or using your cell phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot when you're in an area that doesn't have Wi-Fi access (although doing this tends to use more data than using your phone.)

How to Calculate Your Average Data Use
For Android Marshmallow or Nougat:

Go to Settings: Data Usage 
You'll see how much data you've used for the current month (our example phone currently says 1.5 GB)
Tap on "Cellular data usage" and you'll see a graph of your data usage and the apps that use the most of it (in this example, Facebook)
At the top of the screen, you can toggle back over the last four months.
Check each month and make sure that this usage is typical. (On this phone, one month had 6.78 gigs of usage, but the extra data use was from downloading movies in an airport ahead of a long flight.)
Use the last four months to calculate your average bill. Including the outlying month, average usage was 3 gigs per month. Excluding it, it was less than 2 gigs. 
Using this example, the person owning this phone would end up paying for basic service ($20) and three gigs of data ($30) for a total of $50 per month. Or if they felt confident that they would normally not be such a heavy data user, $40 per month. For a single user, Google Fi is almost always the cheaper option. 

Families are a little trickier because the discount is only $5 per user. An example family plan for a family of three would run $50 for basic service ($20 + $15 + $15) and share five gigs of data between the three accounts ($50) putting the total at $100. 

Taxes and Fees with Google Fi
Google has to charge taxes and fees like any other cellular carrier. Consult this chart to estimate your total taxes. Taxes and fees are controlled primarily by the state in which you live. 

Referral Codes and Specials for Project Fi
If you decide to switch to Project Fi, ask your social networks if anyone has a referral code for you. Currently, Google is offering $20 off to both you and the person referring you. Google also offers other specials and promotions from time to time. 

International Calling and Google Fi
If you live in the US but travel abroad, Google Project Fi has some sweet deals on international coverage. International roaming is the same $10 per gig per month in over 135 countries as it is in the US. Before you get too excited, realize that international coverage may not be as robust as US coverage. In Canada, for example, you're limited to slow 2x (edge) data service and coverage is more limited as you travel further north (so does Canadian population density). 

International calling is not the same price. Receiving international calls is free, but calling internationally costs money and fees depend on the country. That includes calling from your phone number from Hangouts on the web. However, these rates are still competitive. If you need frequent international calls, compare the rates Google offers to those of your current carrier. 

How to Save Data Usage on Your Phone
With Google Fi, data costs money, but Wi-Fi is free. So keep your Wi-Fi on at home and work and any other area with trusted Wi-Fi networks. You can also be mindful of the data you do use and prevent apps from taking up extra bandwidth when you're not actively using them. 

Turn on your data warning:

Go to Settings: Data usage
Tap on the bar graph at the top of the screen
This should open up the "Set data usage warning" box
Specify whatever limit you'd like.
This won't cut off your data. It will just give you a warning, so you could specify 1 gig for a 2 gig plan just to let you know you were halfway through your month's worth of data or you could set the warning to let you know you've exceeded your monthly limit. (Google won't cut you off when you go over your limit. You just get charged the same $10 per month.) 

Once you've set up your data warning, you can then set up an actual data limit which will cut off your data use. 

Turn on your data saver:

Go to Settings: Data usage
Tap "Data saver"
Toggle it on if it's currently off. 
Tap on "Unrestricted data access" 
Toggle any apps you don't want to restrict. 
Data saver turns off background data signals, so you don't have Pinterest telling you that one of your Facebook friends pinned something to their wall, for example. You can give important apps unrestricted data access so they can keep checking things in the background - your work email, for example. 

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