If you're an Android enthusiast, you likely know about Google Fi, but maybe its past limitations turned you away. Now that any unlocked phone can access it, you may be more interested than before. So we're here to give you a high-level view of the carrier that comes directly from Google — what is it, how it works compared to other carriers, and maybe a few reasons why you'd want to try it.
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Thinking about your phone carrier can be a pain, but Google Fi Wireless manages to be an afterthought with network switching and a great app. Google Fi Wireless eliminates overages and makes international travel a breeze. It's the perfect balance for average data users.
What is Google Fi, and how does it work?
At the highest level, Google Fi is a cell phone carrier operated by Google. Although it used to provide data service on both T-Mobile and US Cellular, Google Fi recently severed ties with the latter, making T-Mobile the carrier's sole official network.
What are Google Fi's plans?
Google Fi has two unlimited plans and a flexible plan. With the Flexible plan, you start with unlimited talk and text for $20 per month for one line. After that, you only get charged for the data you use at a rate of $10 per 1GB. Once you've used 6GB of data in a month, your data charge is capped at $60 for the rest of the month, but you continue to get data service.
So you can use as much data as you want for the month without paying over $80 total ($20 base + $60 data). The only caveat here is that once you hit 15GB of total data usage, your speeds are slowed to 256kbps. Alternatively, at the 15GB point, you can choose to start paying $10 per GB again for full-speed data if needed.
If you know you will be using more than 15GB regularly, you can go with the Simply Unlimited plan starting at $50 per month with one line. You don't pay per gig on this plan, but your speeds will be slowed at 35GB of usage. Unlike Fi's other plans, there are no international travel benefits and no data SIM option. You do, however, get 5GB of mobile hotspot data.
If you want everything, the Unlimited Plus plan starts at $65 per month and comes with a massive 50GB of high-speed data with the travel benefits of the Flexible plan. In addition, you get high-speed hotspot usage and the option for a free data SIM. This plan also comes with free calls to more than 50 countries and 100GB of cloud storage with Google One.
You can save some money on your plan if you have multiple lines, with the cost per line on the unlimited plan coming down with each additional line (up to four) or up to five on the flexible plan. So, for example, you can have six lines total, but your cost per line will be the same as four. Additionally, you can add a data-only SIM for free, so you can share your data with another device without needing to create a hotspot.
|Lines||Unlimited Plus||Simply Unlimited||Flexible|
|1 line||$65 per line ($65)||$50 per line ($50)||$20 per line (Minimum bill $10)|
$10 per GB, Protection at 6GB (Maximum bill $80)
|2 lines||$55 per line ($110)||$40 per line ($80)||$18 per line (Minimum bill $35)|
$10 per GB, Protection at 10GB (Maximum bill $135)
|3 lines||$45 per line ($135)||$25 per line ($75)||$17 per line (Minimum bill $50)|
$10 per GB, Protection at 12GB (Maximum bill $170)
|4 lines||$40 per line ($160)||$20 per line ($80)||$17 per line (Minimum bill $65)|
$10 per GB, Protection at 14GB (Maximum bill $205)
|5 lines||$40 per line ($200)||$20 per line ($100)||$16 per line (Minimum bill $80)|
$10 per GB, Protection at 16GB (Maximum bill $240)
|6 lines||$40 per line ($240)||$20 per line ($120)||$16 per line (Minimum bill $95)|
$10 per GB, Protection at 18GB (Maximum bill $275)
Are there Google Fi deals?
Absolutely! There are tons of great Google Fi deals worth checking out, with many more expected to be added as we approach the holiday season. Most of these offers are only available to new customers who transfer their number to Google Fi, but they offer an easy way to save money on some of the newest and best Android phones without having to trade in an old device or sign up for some prohibitively expensive wireless plan.
That being said, the following deals for new customers can be stacked with trade-in credit if you do have an older device to send in. We'll share a few select offers below, but check out Google Fi's official store page for more.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4: Get up to $1,000 off
New customers can transfer their number to Google Fi Wireless and get $1,000 off the new Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, no trade-in required. That knocks the price of the foldable phone down to $799.99, or $33.33/month if you pay over two years.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4:
$999.99 $599.99 when you transfer your number to Google Fi
Transfer your existing number to Fi and pick up the Z Flip 4 and you'll be eligible to receive a whopping $400 off your purchase. You can also pay just $25/month for 24 months.
Does Google Fi support international usage?
Google Fi Flexible and Unlimited Plus work internationally in over 200 countries with no additional cost for data use or texting, which is one of its biggest differentiators from other carriers. You can call at a flat rate of $0.20/min to any number while on the cellular networks abroad or pay much lower rates when calling on Wi-Fi. You can also call back home to the U.S. on Wi-Fi for free. Data used internationally is charged the same way at home, depending on your plan.
The only catch is that speeds can vary depending on the country you're in, which is to be expected. In our experience, we've found full LTE speeds in a variety of countries around Europe and Asia, with the occasional hiccup as the phone switches between roaming partners.
What are the best phones for Google Fi?
If you have a phone that is Designed for Fi, then you will be able to access the entire Google Fi network. For the most part, Design for Fi phones include the Google Pixel series and a handful of Samsung Galaxy phones, including the S22 series. If your phone isn't on the Designed for Fi list, you'll only be able to get service on T-Mobile's network, which will still work for many people. 5G is supported on both Designed for Fi and Compatible with Fi phones, so you'll have access to T-Mobile's massive 5G coverage if your phone supports T-Mobile's 5G bands.
In addition to the three traditional mobile networks, Google Fi also leans heavily on Wi-Fi whenever possible, whether you're around a known network or not. As you move around, your phone will use the "Wi-Fi assistant" to constantly search for and connect to open Wi-Fi networks, using a database of known good networks that can provide a solid connection. Whenever your phone connects to Wi-Fi, the connection is routed through a VPN for your safety — and you won't notice anything different in the phone experience, except that you are no longer paying for mobile data.
Calls and texts work on Wi-Fi just as they do when you're on mobile data, and you can continue your phone call as your phone switches between networks.
When you use Google Fi, you also get some of the same features that have made Google Voice popular over the years. You can forward phone calls to your Fi number to any phone you want, as well as view voicemail, make calls, and send texts with that number from any device using Google Messages.
Which phones are Designed for Fi?
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You get a truly first-class experience with Google Fi on Google's Pixel series of phones. These phones have an eSIM inside that's pre-programmed for Fi, and you can set up an account and connect to its network without putting in a SIM card.
Then there are other phones "designed for Fi" you can buy to get the same experience, such as the Google Pixel 7 or Samsung Galaxy S23 series. The Galaxy Z Flip 4 5G and Galaxy Z Fold 4 are Designed for Fi, and other new phones are likely to join the list if they become popular enough.
Even if they aren't technically Designed for Fi, all of the best Android phones should work with Google Fi's full network.
Which phones are compatible with Fi?
Google Fi now works with any unlocked phone — with some limitations. Unlocked phones can't take advantage of Fi's network switching, so you'll be using the T-Mobile network primarily, and you don't get Fi's always-on VPN option. But you do get the same great international roaming, plus all of the other features like the great Fi app and simple billing. Yes, that unlocked support also includes iPhones, which is a massive step for Fi. Google Fi even supports iMessage using your Fi number.
One thing to keep in mind is that T-Mobile has been integrating Sprint's towers into its network, so even phones that weren't designed for Fi get the majority of Google Fi's coverage.
Android phones with 5G support will also get access to 5G on Google Fi. Though iPhones, even the newest iPhone 13 series, won't get 5G access on Google Fi. At least not at the time of this update.
Does Google Fi support 5G?
Google Fi now supports 5G on its Designed for Fi phones as well as Compatible with Fi phones that support T-Mobile's 5G network. This means your phone will need to support band n71 and n41 for the best possible 5G connection on T-Mobile's network.
Designed for Fi 5G phones include the Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 series, as well as several unlocked Samsung models. In addition, Samsung's Galaxy S21and S22 series, Galaxy Z Flip 4, and Z Fold 4 phones will work with Google Fi's complete network. This includes access to its full array of LTE as well on all three networks.
How to finance a phone with Google Fi
So long as you qualify (up to Google, based on a credit check), you can purchase a new phone and pay for it in monthly installments. There's no down payment required and no interest; the cost of the phone of your choice is just spread out over 24 months.
You can pay off the balance at any time, but if you decide to leave Google Fi, you'll have to pay out the total cost of the phone then and there. You have 30 days to activate Google Fi service from when you buy your phone. If your Google Fi service isn't active within 30 days, Google will charge you the full amount for the phone.
What if I need Google Fi support?
What happens if something goes wrong with my Google Fi phone?
Talking to tech support is one of our least favorite activities and being in a store that will just try to sell you an upgrade or accessories doesn't make it any more fun. With Google Fi, if you need help, your best bet is the app. And this might be the best carrier app you've ever used. You can download the Google Fi app for Android or iOS and get access to 24/7 phone, chat, or email support.
If your phone is having problems or you just want to chat on a device with a proper keyboard, you can freely access Google Fi's support page for the same options.
I just need to see my Google Fi usage and billing
The same app and sites for support work great for showing you your real-time usage and how much it will cost you. The widget on Android keeps you constantly informed on how much data you are using. You will have to open the app on iOS to see this information, but a data warning can be set to send a notification when your data usage gets high. With these tools, your bill should never be a surprise.
How do I cancel Google Fi service?
Very simply. All you have to do is head to the Google Fi website or open up the Fi app:
- Click or tap on the Account tab.
- Click or tap on Manage Plan under Your Plan.
- Click Cancel service.
- Follow the instructions.
If you're switching to another carrier and want to keep your number, you should set up your new plan first to successfully port your number over.
Can I use my Google Fi phone with another carrier?
Provided it works with that particular carrier (chances are it will), yup. Google clearly states that your phone is not locked to Google Fi service.
Switching to Google Fi
If you're OK with the inherent hassle of switching carriers and porting your phone number, you don't have many other hurdles to jump over now that Google Fi is open to just about any unlocked phone. You can sign up for Google Fi online in minutes, and you can either buy a phone at the same time (and cash in on some nice discounts and incentives), or Google will send you a SIM card to put in your existing phone. (Or, if you already have a Pixel, you can get up and running in minutes with the eSIM.)
T-Mobile bought Sprint. Does that affect Google Fi?
On April 1, 2020, T-Mobile completed its purchase of Sprint, bringing the two networks under the ownership of T-Mobile. T-Mobile has unified the two networks and has been moving the remaining Sprint customers to the T-Mobile network. As a result, Google Fi customers likely won't see a significant change in service quality, although it is possible that some rural customers may see some changes, hopefully positive.
Still, compatibility with T-Mobile's infrastructure looks likely into the future, as even unlocked phones that support T-Mobile's 5G will be able to use 5G with Google Fi. T-Mobile has stated that it will continue to support MVNOs, which isn't likely to change any time soon.
T-Mobile is also in the process of shutting down Sprint's as well as its own 3G network to free up space for 5G. This shutdown will take place in mid-2022, though most users will never notice a difference in coverage. The vast majority of phones sold in the last several years support LTE and will continue to work on Google Fi.
Google Fi: Should you buy?
There are a lot of cool features that make Google Fi a good choice, like dramatically simplified billing, Bill Protection to cap your charges every month, seamless international data and calling, and improved network coverage through the use of three carriers and Wi-Fi networks. Of course, each one will have a different amount of draw for different people, but that's a pretty compelling package.
Google Fi's pricing isn't dramatically lower than other carriers out there, and whether it makes a good choice financially for you depends on your data usage and which features you want. Therefore, we encourage you to do your pricing research before choosing which carrier is the best.
Network switching and a VPN
Google Fi's smartphone-first plan structure makes it easy to pick and manage the right plan for your need. Whether you need a lot of data or just a couple of gigs, Fi has a plan that can help you save.
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