Pairing your smartphone with reliable service is essential. Many people use one of the three major carriers for their excellent coverage, but that coverage often comes with a high price tag. Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MNVOs) are a cheaper alternative that provides similar coverage to AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Google has its own MNVO, called Google Fi, which has some unique features that set it apart from the competition.
Here’s everything you need to know about Google Fi’s service, special features, and compatible devices.
What is Google Fi?
Google Fi is Google’s mobile carrier. It uses a combination of T-Mobile and US Cellular’s LTE and 5G networks, as well as Wi-Fi for coverage. If you use one of Google’s Phones Designed for Fi, the service switches between the two networks and leverages open Wi-Fi networks to offer the best coverage. Phones that aren’t designed for Fi use T-Mobile’s network. Since US Cellular is only in a handful of states and has a limited spectrum, you’ll probably be on T-Mobile’s network most of the time.
Google Fi provides talk, text, and data in Canada and Mexico on all of its plans. It also offers affordable international calling and free text messages to many countries.
What plans does Google Fi offer?
Google Fi has three plans: Flexible, Simply Unlimited, and Unlimited Plus. On the Flexible plan, you pay a fixed rate for unlimited talk and text, and data comes in at $10 per Gigabyte. Taxes and fees are tacked on to your monthly bill. You can share data with other people on your account using the Flexible plan.
The other two plans are variations on an unlimited data plan. Both plans offer unlimited talk, text, and data in the US, Canada, and Mexico. Unlimited Plus offers free calls to more than fifty countries on top of the US, Canada, and Mexico. Unlimited Plus also includes 100GB of Google One storage for each line.
All plans include hotspot tethering, which is charged differently depending on your plan. The Flexible plan lets you use the data you’re paying $10/GB for, the Simply Unlimited Plan allows for 5GB per month, and the Unlimited Plus Plan offers 50GB for tethering. Both the Flexible and Unlimited Plus plans allow for data-only SIM cards for any non-cellular devices you have and include data and texts while traveling internationally as well as affordable cellular and free Wi-Fi calling to over 200 countries. The Flexible Plan has slower data speeds after 15GB, the Simply Unlimited Plan has slower speeds after 35GB, and the Unlimited Plus Plan has slower data speeds at 50GB.
If you’re a Flexible or Unlimited Plus plan subscriber who owns a compatible Google Pixel with 5G or Samsung Galaxy S22 model, you’ll also enjoy 5G speeds in 39 countries. If you don’t own a Pixel or Galaxy S22, Google Fi offers 4G coverage in over 200 countries; Unlimited Plus subscribers get up to 50GB of high speed data internationally.
Google has also sweetened the deal for iPhone users as well. Google Fi’s Flexible and Unlimited Plus plans offer international hotspot coverage in 200 countries and territories. Fi also supports Wi-Fi calling on iPhones.
Here is a summary of the differences between pricing for these plans per line. Although single-line plans are expensive, Fi offers discounts for each additional line. For example, if you sign up for four lines on Unlimited Plus, you’ll pay $160 per month plus applicable taxes and fees.
|Lines||Flexible||Simply Unlimited||Unlimited Plus|
|1||$20 + $10/GB||$50||$65|
|2||$18 + $10/GB||$40||$55|
|3||$17 + $10/GB||$25||$45|
|4||$17 + $10/GB||$20||$40|
|5||$16 + $10/GB||$20||$40|
|6||$16 + $10/GB||$20||$40|
Google Fi also includes 24/7 online customer support and has no contracts or activation fees. You can cancel your plan at any time with no additional fees.
Since Google Fi uses T-Mobile as its primary network for most of the country (US Cellular is a regional carrier), coverage is pretty solid. T-Mobile has a solid wall of sub-6GHz 5G coverage across the US along with Band 71 for rural LTE coverage. If you want to see what coverage is like in your area, enter your address into Fi’s coverage map.
What features does Google Fi offer?
Google Fi has some neat features that set it apart from other carriers. The carrier puts a lot of emphasis on privacy and security, adding VPNs to its plans. There’s also automatic end-to-end call encryption for Android devices when you’re chatting with other Google Fi customers. Plus, Fi has a built-in spam call filtering feature, which automatically stops incoming calls identified as spam.
Google Fi has some additional features that make managing multi-line accounts easier. In the Google Fi app, you can view a snapshot of the people on your plan, find out how much data each person uses, and create data alerts. If you have children on your account, you can block calls and texts from strangers, create a budget for data usage, and set rules for digital activity. Ground rules you can set include content filters, screen time limits, app download approval, and device location tracking.
You can also make calls, send texts, and check your voicemails from your computer, even if your phone is turned off. However, you can’t use Google Messages’ RCS features when your phone is turned off.
What phones does Google Fi offer?
Fi sells a variety of phones from Google, Motorola, and Samsung on its site. You can also bring your own device if it’s supported on Fi’s network.
The phones Google sells on the Fi site have the Designed for Fi designation, meaning they use eSIMs and are optimized to take advantage of the network’s unique architecture. Many of the best Android phones have this distinction and get the best out of Google Fi. Other Android phones and all recent iPhones also work with the network but cannot take advantage of Fi’s network-switching and Wi-Fi optimization capabilities.
Get more perks with Google Pixel Pass
Like most carriers, Google lets you buy your phone outright or pay for it over 24 months. Fi also offers discounts and promotions on most of its inventory. If you’re interested in the Google Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, or Pixel 6a, Google Pixel Pass is especially enticing for Fi customers.
Google Pixel Pass is an all-in-one solution that includes a device payment plan as well as subscriptions to Google One (200GB), Google Play Pass, and YouTube Premium. You also get $5 off your monthly Fi service.