Project Fi, unveiled in 2015, is Google’s attempt to make mobile phone service better. Instead of trying to compete with traditional phone carriers, Google has teamed up with cellular giants to provide cheap phone service that “just works.”
I’ve been using Project Fi since early 2016, and I’m ready to tell you all about it. If you’re thinking of hopping on board, here’s everything you need to know before switching to Project Fi. If you’re crunched for time, jump ahead:
- What Is Project Fi?
- Project Fi Plans and Pricing
- Project Fi Compatible Phones
- What It’s Like to Actually Use Project Fi
- Project Fi: International, Voicemail, Hotspots, Etc.
- Getting Started With Project Fi
- Project Fi Account Management Is Easy
1. What Is Project Fi?
Project Fi is a US-only mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) by Google, meaning that it piggybacks off established mobile networks instead of building its own.
For Project Fi, these networks are Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular. With a Project Fi plan and compatible phone, you can get no-nonsense cell service with several benefits at an affordable price.
Let’s explore the specifics of Project Fi to see if it’s right for you.
2. Project Fi Plans and Pricing
Project Fi offers simple pricing. Unlimited talk and text is $20/month, while data costs $10/GB. Those are the only costs you’ll pay aside from taxes and fees.
The Project Fi’s family plan supports up to six total people. The owner pays $20/month for unlimited talk and text plus $15/month per additional member. Shared data costs $10/GB for everyone, and the group admin receives one bill for the group.
#projectfi is the best thing to happen to data … Bill is $35… I don't understand how the big guys survive with this around
— John Francis (@DrJohnFrancis) June 8, 2018
Project Fi also includes a feature called Bill Protection. Once you reach a certain amount of data usage per month (e.g. 6GB for one user, 10GB for two people, etc.), you won’t pay for any data beyond that.
For example, if a single person used 8GB of data in a month, they’d pay $80 that month: $20 for talk and text plus $60 for a maximum of 6GB of data. This works up to 15GB of data, after which Project Fi throttles (i.e. slows down) your speeds.
You don’t have to worry about termination fees or annual contracts with Project Fi.
3. Project Fi Compatible Phones
To use Project Fi, you’ll need a compatible phone. You can find a list of these on the Project Fi phones page. As of this writing:
- Pixel 2/XL
- Moto G6
- Moto X4
- LG G7 ThinQ
- LG V35 ThinQ
- Nexus 6P
- Nexus 5X
- Nexus 6
While the selection is limited, the devices on offer are all solid. But we don’t recommend going with Nexus devices, as they’re old and no longer receive updates.
If you have one of these phones, you can bring it over to Project Fi. If not, you can purchase an unlocked phone through Project Fi, which will save you a lot of money and hassle. (Why buy unlocked phones?)
If you don’t want to pay the full price outright, you can pay in an installment plan over 24 months (if eligible). However, if you leave Project Fi before the 24 months is up, you’ll have to pay the rest of the phone off.
Google also offers a trade-in program that can reduce the price of your new phone.
With timely Android updates and good specs on the modern Project Fi phones, you’re getting the best of Android and don’t have to deal with hardware manufacturer drama. But if you don’t like stock Android, Project Fi probably isn’t for you.
You can also order an additional data-only SIM card at no cost. These allow you to access your Project Fi data (at the same cost of $10/GB) on tablets and other supported devices. This is an inexpensive way to get online anywhere with your other devices.
4. What It’s Like to Actually Use Project Fi
I’m extremely pleased with Project Fi after years of use.
Setting up the SIM card and getting my number transferred was a breeze. Google even replaced my out-of-warranty Project Fi Nexus 6P (which had a battery issue) with a new Pixel XL for free. I’ve loved both phones, and I’m paying less for my phone bill than I used to.
Cell service coverage is always a concern with any mobile carrier, but I haven’t had any major issues getting or staying connected. I’ll occasionally find myself in a dead zone, but since my device switches between three carriers, the dead moments never last long.
Check out Project Fi’s coverage map to see if the service covers your area.
Project Fi is all about connecting you to the best available network. It places calls through your Wi-Fi connection if it’s faster than cellular. The service also seamlessly moves between three carrier networks to find the best connection. The Signal Info app can show what network you’re connect to at any time.
If you approach one of the million “high-quality” open Wi-Fi networks around the country, your phone will automatically connect and Google’s built-in VPN will protect your browsing while you’re on it.
Being able to connect to three networks instead of one makes a noticeable improvement. I have a reliable signal in areas where I had issues connecting on my old plan. Project Fi doesn’t feel at all like an unreliable or “second-rate” service.
If all this isn’t enough, when I got my original phone and SIM card delivered, Google even included a Holiday Surprise—a buildable LEGO figure that held my charging cables in place! When has your phone provider ever done something this awesome that made you smile?
5. Project Fi: International, Voicemail, Hotspots, Etc.
Project Fi includes a few extras on top of the phone plan.
It supports visual voicemail in the Phone app, so you can read transcripts and listen to messages without calling a number. Project Fi also lets you turn your phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot for tethering at no extra cost. Just pay for the data you use while tethered.
And if you’re traveling outside the US, Project Fi offers affordable international rates. In over 170 countries, you can enjoy free unlimited texting, non-Wi-Fi calls at $0.20/minute, and mobile data at the usual $10/GB price.
Check the Project Fi international rates page for more. I can’t speak to international performance as I don’t use my phone outside the US.
As a nice bonus, if you refer a friend to Project Fi, you’ll both get a $20 credit to your bills. Project Fi also offers Device Protection for $5/month, which allows you to replace your phone for a flat deductible if anything happens to it.
6. Getting Started With Project Fi
While Project Fi once required an invite, anyone can sign up now. Just head to the Project Fi signup page and sign in with the Google account you want to use to manage it. Here, you’ll select your device, choose a number, and confirm your plan.
Important note for Google Voice users: If you have a Google Voice number associated with your Google account, you will lose access to it when you join Fi unless you make your Voice number your new Project Fi number. If you want to keep it separate, you’ll need to sign up for Fi with a different Google account or transfer your Voice number before proceeding.
If you’re not using a Google Voice number, you can either get a brand-new phone number or migrate your current number over from your old carrier. You’ll have to go through a brief process to make the switch once you get your phone, then manually cancel your service with your old carrier. Google does not pay any switching fees, so check with your current carrier first to avoid surprises.
7. Project Fi Account Management Is Easy
In the app, you can see how many days remain in the current cycle, how much data you’ve used (and set a warning limit), and view past statements. In addition to tweaking features like voicemail and call forwarding, you can manage your plan and even order new devices inside the app.
The app also lets you contact support via phone, email, or chat. Google promises a quick response on calls, so you don’t have to worry about sitting on the phone for an hour to get a small issue fixed.
The app is simple and stays out of the way. Outside of managing your data, you shouldn’t need to visit the Fi app much, and that’s great.
Is Project Fi Right for You?
After using Project Fi for over two years, I’m happy to say that Project Fi is a simple, cheap, reliable phone plan that’s worth the price.
If you have any interest in the supported phones and think you’re paying too much for cell service, give Project Fi a look. It’s especially handy if you’re on Wi-Fi often and don’t use much data. It’s not for everyone, but it’s affordable, provides great features, and lets you escape from the fees and pain of traditional carriers.
To save even more on Project Fi (or any other mobile plan with data), check out the best Android apps for reducing mobile data usage.