What is Google Fi? Details, Pros, and Cons

June 21, 2023 • Devin Partida

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What is Google Fi – a high-value cell service option or just another Google side project? Google Fi can be a good deal with great features for specific types of users. However, there are also clear cases where other providers would be a much better option. Take a look at how Google Fi works, its benefits and drawbacks, and how it stacks up against the competition. 

What is Google Fi Wireless?

Originally known as “Project Fi”, Google Fi is a wireless cell service provider operated by Google. It’s compatible with unlocked Android, Samsung and Apple phones. It’s a mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO, which means it uses other network providers’ infrastructure to offer service. Google Fi  basically “piggybacks” off of the cell towers owned by larger networks, mainly T-Mobile and US Cellular. 

Unlike many larger cell service providers, Fi does not have contracts. Users are free to cancel or pause their plan whenever they want. They can also use any compatible phone they want, which includes most phones that aren’t locked to a certain provider. 

Google Fi Plans Explained

The payment system at Google Fi is based on monthly usage and the number of phone lines on a plan. Groups of 2 to 6 people on one plan receive discounted monthly rates. Three plan options are available regardless of the number of users: Simply Unlimited, Unlimited Plus, and Flexible. 

The Unlimited and Unlimited Plus plans include unlimited text, talk and data plus free international calls and texts to Canada and Mexico. The Unlimited plan only includes 5 GB of free hotspot tethering, though, compared to unlimited hotspot tethering with the Plus plan. 

The Plus plan also includes more regions for international calling and texting, including messages originating outside the US. So, if a user is traveling and wants to make a call from London, they could do so at no extra cost with the Plus plan, but not with the standard Unlimited plan. 

The Flexible plan is a customizable option that allows users to set up a plan specific to their needs. It can be more affordable for users with minimal needs for their plan. For example, the Flexible plan starts at $20 for basic call and text service but data is $10 extra per gigabyte per month. So, only users who need less than 3 GB of data per month would save money with the Flexible plan. 

The Flexible plan does have one big advantage over the standard Unlimited plan. It includes more international support, with US-based calls to Canada and Mexico, data roaming at $10 per gigabyte, and call and text availability outside the US, Canada, and Mexico. 

Benefits of Fi

What is Google Fi good for and who would benefit most from using it? There are certain types of users that Google’s cell service plans are ideal for, but it’s not for everyone. Take a look at the main benefits of Fi to get an idea of the best uses for it. 

Greater Flexibility

One big advantage of Google Fi over traditional phone plans is the lack of a contract. Users are not locked into a certain monthly rate, contract period or device. They can pause or cancel service whenever they want, swap their device whenever they want and adjust their plan if needed. Users who don’t like the rigidity and high prices of contract plans can benefit from switching to Google Fi, which is much more flexible. 

Features for Families and Groups

Google Fi is also a great option for families. The plan rates are a bit high for solo users, but groups can actually get good value out of the discounts Google offers. Google Fi also has features designed specifically for families, such as the ability to share users’ locations with other people in the group’s plan. There’s also automatic spam blocking or even whitelisting, which only allows calls and texts from specified trusted numbers. 

Google even has a special Family Link feature on the Fi app. Family Link allows parents to set screen time limits and approve any content and app downloads kids request. This ensures that kids don’t accidentally download inappropriate content on their phone. Both features make Google Fi’s Family Link a great tool for families with kids who are using their own smartphones for the first time. 

Added Privacy and Security

Google Fi is also a good phone plan option for users who are concerned about privacy. Google offers a number of privacy and security features that can definitely come in handy for keeping data and activity confidential. These features include a VPN access and default end-to-end encrypted calls. Google also includes a cybersecurity feature that prevents SIM swapping attacks by connecting Google Fi to the user’s verified Google account. 

Drawbacks of Fi

Google Fi is an good option for many people, but what is it not well-suited for? Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks worth noting. First and foremost, Google Fi is an MVNO, which means it relies on other networks’ infrastructure. This can be an issue since an outage on those networks can affect Google Fi users. 

Additionally, if the larger network, in this case T-Mobile, gets congested with a lot of cell traffic, T-Mobile users will be prioritized over MVNOs using T-Mobile’s infrastructure. Luckily, this is unlikely to happen with Google Fi since it also uses US Cellular’s infrastructure, so Fi users’ data can be run through a couple different networks if needed. 

Another important issue to consider is Google itself. Google is not a telecommunications company. It is a search engine company. This doesn’t mean Google won’t be good at running a cell service, it simply means that Google Fi is not necessarily the company’s main priority. It’s also not Google’s speciality. As a result, it is possible that if Fi isn’t profitable, Google could choose to discontinue it one day. 

Google Fi also isn’t the cheapest MVNO option out there today. It can definitely be more affordable than most traditional cell carriers, but there are other options that are more cost-effective. For example, Mint Mobile is significantly cheaper per year compared to Google. Even Mint Mobile’s most expensive plan is $20 cheaper per month than Google’s standard unlimited plan. 

Alternatives to Google Fi

When looking for a new cell provider, it’s important to check out all the options available. Google Fi is a great choice for many users, but isn’t the best fit for everyone. Users who like some features of Fi, may also like these similar alternatives. 

Mint Mobile

One of the best MVNO cell providers around today is Mint Mobile. Known for easy, low prices and straightforward service, Mint Mobile is very user friendly and affordable. The base plan is only $15 per month for unlimited talk and text plus 5 GB of data. 

That rate is a fraction of the price of Google Fi’s standard Unlimited Plan. In fact, 5 GB of data alone would cost $50 per month on Google Fi’s Flexible Plan! Mint Mobile users can also choose to pay $20/month for 15 GB of data, $25/month for 20 GB of data or $30/month for unlimited data. 

The main drawback of Mint Mobile compared to Google Fi is a lack of features. Fi may be better for families or users who want Google’s extra privacy features. Mint Mobile is best for people who are simply looking for a straightforward, low-cost phone plan. 

Visible Wireless

Another great alternative to Google Fi is Visible Wireless. It takes a similar approach to Google Fi’s plan offerings, with two different unlimited plans for unlocked phones. Visible does offer more competitive pricing and value than Fi, though. 

There are two plan options: Visible and Visible Plus. The standard plan is $30 per month for unlimited talk, text and data. The Plus plan is $45 per month and offers much more international coverage for the extra $15 per month. Interestingly, both plans include unlimited mobile hotspot data, which is a big advantage compared to both Google and Mint Mobile. Frequent welcome discounts often offer lower rates for new users, as well. 

Visible is also run directly by Verizon, so users are getting service from an experienced cell service provider. The main drawback of Visible Wireless compared to Google Fi is the lack of bonus features like Google’s Family Link tools. 

Is Google Fi Worth It?

So, should smartphone users consider switching to Google Fi? For families and privacy-conscious users, the answer could be “yes”. Fi has features that make it great for these types of users. However, it may not be the best option for those who want a low-cost phone plan, especially solo users. 

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