Project Fi Buyer's Guide: Everything you need to know
Hate paying for features or data you don’t use? Project Fi might just be the carrier for you.
Project Fi is Google’s foray into the world of alternative carriers. Fi is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) and leases coverage from Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and the Three network for overseas roaming.
Here’s everything you need to know about Google Project Fi.
Google leases its coverage from Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular in the U.S. and uses Three’s network in Europe and Asia. Its 4G LTE coverage extends throughout most of the U.S., though parts of the Midwest only receive 3G and 2G speeds (there’s essentially no 4G coverage in Montana of Wyoming).
Using the three big cellular networks in the U.S., Project Fi will move you from carrier to carrier depending on how strong the 4G LTE signal is. Fi analyzes your location to see which one is fastest and will bounce you around as necessary so that you’re always at maximum speeds.
As mentioned, Project Fi relies on the Three network for coverage in Europe and Asia. One of the best parts of any Project Fi plan is the fact that you can use your data in more than 135 countries just like you would at home — no roaming charges.
You get unlimited international texting with any plan and calls to and from other countries are a flat rate of 20 cents per minute. 4G LTE coverage is subject to availability in one of the 135+ countries covered, but if it’s available, it’s yours to use (within your monthly cap).
Project Fi plans
Project Fi’s plans are about as straightforward and simple as it gets for mobile plans.
You start off with “The Basics” for $20 a month. This gets you unlimited domestic talk and text (including SMS and MMS), unlimited international texting, tethering, and the free data-only SIM card. You can also make calls and texts across all of your devices.
After you sign up for the basics, you add 4G LTE. It’s $10 per GB of data. That data works in over 135 just like it does at home. If you buy a certain amount of data but don’t use it all within your billing period, you’ll be refunded for the amount you don’t use, at the rate of about 1 cent per MB. If you go over your monthly data allotment, no biggie — you’ll just get billed at the rate of $10/GB.
If you’d like to add on friends and family, you can do so with Project Fi Group plans, and they get a $5 discount on The Basics.
Best phones to use with Project Fi
The one catch (maybe?) with Project Fi is that it only supports Google phones. It makes sense; why wouldn’t Google want you to use its phones on its network? Luckily, some of Google’s phones are some of the best Android phones around.
The Google Pixel is handily the best Google phone you can buy, which is why it received an Android Central Choice Award and is a favorite among our editors. It’s software is excellent, it’s got a great build, and it’s camera is among the upper echelon of smartphone cameras.
Here are all the phones that work with Project Fi:
- Google Pixel
- Google Pixel XL
- Nexus 6P
- Nexus 6
- Nexus 5X
How to finance a phone with Project Fi
So long as you qualify (up to Google, based on a credit check) you can purchase a new phone and pay for it in monthly installments. There’s no down payment required and no interest; the cost of the phone of your choice is just spread out over 24 months.
You can pay off the balance at any time, but if you decide to leave Project Fi, you’ll have to pay out the total cost of the phone then and there. You have 30 days to activate Project Fi service from when you buy your phone. If your Project Fi service isn’t active within 30 days, Google will just charge you the full amount for the phone.
Do I have to sign up for a Project Fi contract?
No. Project Fi operates on a month-to-month basis. You can start up and cancel at any time. The only “contract” you agree to is if you choose to purchase a phone on monthly installments. In that case, you must make 24 monthly payments with active Project Fi service.
Can I bring my phone number over from another network?
Absolutely. When you start the signup process, there’ll be a section where you can check to see if your number can be transferred. If it can, enter it, and Google will do the rest. Most transfers take only 15 minutes, though some can take a day depending on the network from which they came.
To port your number:
- Insert your Project Fi SIM card into your Fi-compatible phone.
- Turn on your phone and follow the on-screen instructions.
- Wait for your number to be transferred. You’ll be able to see its status in the Project Fi app and on its website.
While your number transfers over, you’ll still be able to use your old phone to make calls and send texts, and you’ll be able to use data on your Fi-enabled phone.
Why can I only use Google phones?
For right now, Google has only enabled Google phones to use the Project Fi SIM. It claims that only Google phones work with the Project Fi SIM card because they have “state-of-the-art cellular radio[s] tuned to work across network types”.
How do I cancel Project Fi service?
Very simply. All you have to do is head to the Project Fi website or app:
- Click or tap on the Account tab.
- Click or tap on Manage Plan under Your Plan.
- Click Cancel service.
- Follow the instructions.
That’s it. Google isn’t like other carriers that make it difficult for you to leave. Just say you want to cancel and cancel. Boom.
Can I use my Project Fi phone with another carrier?
Provided it works with that particular carrier (chances are it will), yup. Google clearly states that your phone is not locked to Project Fi service.
Got any other questions about Google Project Fi? Let us know in the comments below.
Alternative carriers (MVNOS)