Oh Me, Oh My, Thoughts on Project Fi

Earlier this summer on our Western Ho adventure (Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Alberta)  we traveled in Canada as well as many other areas without AT&T service. Prior to entering Canada I had call my mobile phone provider AT&T to ask about having the ability to at least text and call from Canada. On their advise I upped my plan to take advantage of their free testing from Canada option. (This plan worked for messaging but not without some billing issues).  I had not thought at the time about navigation. We had with us a GPS, paper maps and my iPhone to get directions and locate camping spots. Unfortunately, after crossing the border we realized the only thing that worked for mapping was our good old paper maps.

Knowing that we would be traveling through Canada again this fall as well as traveling through areas without AT&T coverage I decided to look into Google’s Project Fi.

My son-in-law switched form an iPhone and AT&T a few months ago to Project Fi so I had my own “expert” to help with some of the questions I had. Something to note is that he lives in Minnesota and many options for cell coverage.

For reference, Project Fi

Project Fi is a phone carrier offering from Google. It works by giving you mobile data service on three mobile networks, which your phone will intelligently switch between — it also uses Wi-Fi to make calls and send texts whenever available. Project Fi is a “prepaid” carrier, meaning you pay upfront for your service in the trailing month, which is the opposite of a traditional carrier (Verizon, AT&T, etc.) that bills you after you use the service.

Project Fi is focused on simplified billing. You pay $20 per month for unlimited talk and texting, and a flat rate of $10 per gigabyte of data used. At the start of each month you simply estimate how much data you’ll use and pay for that amount — at the end of the month you’ll receive either a refund for data you didn’t use, or pay a little extra on the next bill for data overages. You’ll always pay at the same $10 per gigabyte rate, though, no matter what.

Project Fi works with a special SIM card — and a little software on your phone — that can authenticate you on T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular, and switch between them on the fly based on a variety of factors. Because it can also use Wi-Fi for calls and texts, you can keep using your phone in places where mobile data isn’t that great. Extra software called a “Wi-Fi Assistant” will automatically connect your phone to open Wi-Fi access points when you’re out of the house, reducing your data usage without any intervention on your part.

Project Fi also works internationally in 120 countries around the world with no additional cost for data use or texting. You can call at a flat rate 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 just comes out of your standard $10 per gigabyte bucket, but speeds are limited to 256kbps

 

When I decided to sign up for Project Fi, the first problem I encountered was that it was not available in my area code 😦     however I  tried an adjacent area code and found availability. (Google assigns a phone number based on area code). That also meant that I had to give up my former Google Voice number which really was no problem since I rarely used it. I also needed to order a phone. I chose the Nexus 5x to use with Fi and ordered it through Google.

Being an Apple girl,  I am still getting used to the Android platform but must admit I like it. One of the benefits from Project Fi is that it uses T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular  (includes Verison) to authenticate so even though coverage is slow at my home I had no problem finding service on our just completed Eastern Ho adventure (Michigan, Ontario, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and New Brunswick). We were able to use  Fi of navigation whenever my AT&T was not available and in Canada.

As far as cost, I chose the $20 per month for unlimited calling and texting and $10 for every gigabyte of data I want to use a month.The data can be adjusted at any time. For our trip we came close to using just 1 gig. Other months I my bill was adjusted because I didn’t use data so I was actually billed LESS than the anticipated $30.. per month. Now that we are home for a while I will probably suspend service for a month or two until we need it again. This is another great feature as far as I am concerned.

If I lived in an area with multiple cell options (towers) I would be seriously considering using Project Fi exclusively.

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