As Google’s Project Fi closes in on an all-encompassing rollout, more phones are being added under the plan’s comprehensive umbrella at a fairly impressive rate. Though once tied to a small handful of models there is now a respectable smattering of phones compatible with the new Google Fi service that make it an intriguing option for those with an eye for network stability while on the go.
Three networks, dozens of phone models
The biggest draw for Project Fi is its potential in consistent signal strength by bouncing between T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Sprint’s existing mobile networks to give its customers a better shot at finding a phone signal both at home and when out and about. It makes sense that this driving force would translate well to opening the service up to a wide variety of phones, with the most recent wave inducting 84 phone models into the established set of phones compatible with Project Fi.
There is a small catch, however: Not every phone can take advantage of the network-hopping capabilities offered. The service will still operate for every phone listed, but being able to bounce between multiple carriers to find stronger signals only works on a relatively small number of phones offered by Google, Motorola and LG. It’s possible to use an iPhone with the network, but don’t expect to be able to hop between carriers until Google has smoothed out the technology for Apple devices.
Yet the main draw of paying a significantly lower bill than average for potentially greater connectivity is still strong, considering unlimited talk and text begins at a price point of $20 with an additional fee for data. Even during a data-heavy month the schedule of fees never goes above $80 unless you choose to pay to sidestep data throttling over the service’s limit. Much like no lock in contract internet allows for home flexibility, Project Fi seems to aim for greater flexibility in a market that often offers little to none.
In the market for travel
One of the most interesting promises made by Google is the international appeal of Project Fi. As it stands, over 170 countries host carriers compatible with the service in a way that allows your cell phone to work internationally without the need for local SIM cards and disposable phones. Weighing the convenience of the network against cost benefit of taking a phone abroad and potentially losing it is always a concern, but not having to purchase a cheap phone for a one-off trip does have its convenience appeal.
Calls are charged by the minute internationally and data rollover doesn’t seem to be an issue, either. If you prepay for data you do not use, you get a refund at the beginning of the next pay cycle, easy as can be. It’s rare to see a company so quick to promise a transparency of fees and work towards making good on that promise considering just how nightmarish rollover minutes used to be in the era of flip-phones and ten-key texting.
As a less exciting bonus, Fi seems to have improved phone connectivity between mobile and Wi-Fi networks in a way few phones grasp smoothly. It’s not uncommon to go between a wireless network and a mobile tower only to have a period where data is completely unusable as it tries to work off of a waning Wi-Fi signal, but that issue seems to be a problem of the past for Fi.
Is it worth swapping carriers just to hop networks for a better signal? That depends on your travel patterns and how you value your call strength, but there is a definite appeal to Google’s price point and strive towards network openness. We’re overdue for networks working in our favour and this seems to be a step in the right direction.