Using an iPhone with Google Fi: Top things you need to know
After years of being limited to select Android phones, Google Fi (formerly known as Project Fi) is now available for most unlocked Android phones and even iPhones. This is something we've been eagerly waiting for, but now that it's arrived, there are a few unexpected caveats you'll want to make sure you're aware of.
If you have an iPhone and are thinking about trying Fi for yourself, here are a few things to keep in mind before joining.
Have an Android phone that you want to bring to Google Fi? Check out this guide instead!
You'll need an iPhone 5S, 6, SE, or newer
Before we go any further, the first thing we need to point out is that older iPhone models won't work at all on Google Fi. If you have something like an iPhone 4 or 5, you're out of luck.
Thankfully, if your iPhone is at least relatively new(ish), you're in the clear. The full list of supported iPhones for Google Fi is as follows:
- iPhone 5S
- Phone 6/6 Plus
- iPhone 6S/6S Plus
- iPhone SE
- iPhone 7/7 Plus
- iPhone 8/8 Plus
- iPhone X
- iPhone XS/XS Max
- iPhone XR
The iPhone has to be unlocked
Assuming you have one of the above iPhones, your next step is to make sure that it's unlocked. If you bought the phone direct from a carrier and are paying month-to-month for it, it isn't going to work as it's tied to that specific network.
However, if you purchased an iPhone SIM-free from Apple, outright from Best Buy, or bought it from your carrier but have since paid it off, you should be good to go. If you're uncertain, you can contact the carrier you purchased the iPhone from and make sure it's unlocked. If it's not, you can inquire about getting them to unlock it for you.
4G LTE and free roaming works
Now that you've got an unlocked iPhone that works with Google Fi, let's talk about what you'll be able to do with the service.
Once all set up, you'll have access to unlimited calling and texting, 4G LTE data speeds, and a 24/7 support system that'll get you in touch with a real human no matter what your issue is.
If you do a lot of traveling, you'll be happy to know that Google Fi on iPhones still supports fee-free roaming in more than 170 countries around the globe with free unlimited texts and the same data rate that you get in the U.S. at $10 per 1GB that you use.
The only thing to keep in mind here is that international tethering does not currently work with iPhones.
SMS texting doesn't work out of the box
iMessage is one of the iPhone's most popular features, and with Google Fi, it works just like normal from day one. However, for standard SMS text messages (texts to non-iPhones), you'll need to configure some settings on your phone before these will work.
All this requires is a simple update to your iPhone's MMS settings, and if you need help, Google Fi's support reps can walk you through the whole process. However, as these settings can be changed with updates to iOS, Google does note that you may need to update these settings 1-2 times a year to keep everything working.
Visual voicemail isn't available
Right now on your iPhone, you access voicemails by opening the Phone app and tapping on the Voicemail tab. Here, you get a list of any voicemails you have and can listen to them or see a transcription of what the caller said. When you bring an iPhone to Google Fi, this doesn't work.
Instead, Google will text you transcriptions of any voicemails you receive, and if you want to listen to them, you'll need to call Google Fi. It's definitely not the most elegant system around, but the core functionality is still there.
Network switching, Fi's VPN service, and more are also MIA
Lastly, there are a few other Google Fi features you'll be missing out on.
One of Fi's most iconic aspects, the ability to hop back and forth between multiple networks (T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular) to get the best coverage possible, simply doesn't work on iPhones. Instead, you're limited to just T-Mobile. To make sure you have good coverage in your area, check out Google Fi's coverage map and make sure "Compatible with Fi" is selected."
Similarly, phones that are designed for Google Fi have a feature that allows them to automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks when they're available so as to save mobile data and disconnect from them when you're out of range. It's a really helpful tool that makes Google Fi that much more magical, but if you have an iPhone, it's another feature you'll be missing out on.
iPhones on Google Fi also miss out on the network's included VPN service and Wi-Fi calling.
Google Fi for iPhones is still in beta
At this point in the article, Google Fi for iPhones might sound like a really watered-down version of the service for Android phones that are designed for the network — and that's because it is. However, it's worth noting that this could change down the road.
Google Fi is currently in a beta state for iPhones, meaning that Google's still working on making the experience as good as can be. It's hard to tell right now what'll change with Google Fi for iPhones, but it's bound to get better.
Bringing your own phone to Google Fi: Top things you need to know
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Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.