Project Fi

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Project Fi
Project Fi logo
Type Mobile data and voice
Location
  • United States
  • Roaming in 170+ countries
Protocols GSM / CDMA / HSPA+ / LTE
Use Wireless smartphone service
Owner Google
Operator Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Three
Established April 22, 2015 (2015-04-22)
Current status Operational
Commercial? Yes
Website fi.google.com

Project Fi is a mobile virtual network operator by Google, providing phone, messaging and data services using both Wi-Fi and cellular networks belonging to Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Three. The service was launched on April 22, 2015, for the Nexus 6 through invitations only. The invitation system was dropped in March 2016, and support for additional devices, including the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones, was introduced in October 2016.

Project Fi automatically switches between networks depending on signal strength and speed. It automatically connects to Wi-Fi hotspots with data encryption through an automatic VPN. Phone calls transition between Wi-Fi and cellular networks. With all networks combined, Project Fi covers more than 170+ countries around the world.

Plans are based on a flat rate, in which a subscription costs $20 per month for unlimited calls and messaging plus a customizable data allowance costing an additional $10 per gigabyte. Money for any unused data is credited back to the user's account, while overuse of data costs an additional $10 per gigabyte in proportion to actual usage. A Group Plan, which lets users add members to their subscription, costs an additional $15 per user per month, and offers features including data overview, data notifications, monthly allowances, and the ability to pause users' data usages. A data-only SIM card can be used on supported tablets.

On January 17, 2018, Project Fi announced "bill protection" which caps the charge for data at $60 if you use more than 6GB of data in a billing period. If the data used is greater than 15GB, then Fi may slow the data speed to 256kbps. The user can avoid the data slowdown by paying full price for the data used at $10 per GB. The "bill protection" also works with group plans maxing out the data charge at $85 for two people and $120 for three people and $140 for four people. The rate for unlimited calls and text is not affected by the new "bill protection" plan.

Project Fi has received positive reviews. Critics who tested the service for six months praised its pricing strategy, especially the money-back feature for unused data. They also enjoyed the "seamless" transition between Wi-Fi and cellular networks, and one critic enjoyed the customer service experience. However, the service received criticism for the limited number of phones supported, calling Project Fi "irrelevant" if users don't have and don't want any of those devices.

History[edit]

Project Fi was announced exclusively for the Nexus 6 smartphone on April 22, 2015, with support for Sprint and T-Mobile.[1][2][3][4] Due to high demand at launch, the service required that interested users have an invitation, which were gradually released throughout summer 2015.[5][6] The invitation system was dropped on March 7, 2016.[7][8][9] U.S. Cellular was added on June 8, 2016.[10][11][12] Three was added on July 12, 2016.[13][14][15] In October 2016, Google added support for the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones,[16][17] and later introduced a Group Plan, letting subscribers add extra members to their plans.[18][19][20]

Features[edit]

Project Fi automatically switches between networks depending on signal strength and speed.[21] It automatically connects to open Wi-Fi hotspots while securing data with encryption through an automatic VPN.[22] Phone calls, if placed over a Wi-Fi connection, will seamlessly transition to a cellular network if Wi-Fi coverage is lost.[23][24][25][26] Project Fi users can use Google Hangouts on any phone, tablet or computer to call and text.[27]

Project Fi also has begun to support VoLTE as part of a staged/beta rollout.[28]

With all of its networks combined, Project Fi's service covers more than 170 countries and territories around the world.[29]

Plans[edit]

Monthly plans are flat fee-based,[23] paid at the beginning of each monthly billing cycle. It starts at $20 per month for unlimited calls and messaging. Money for unused data is credited back to the user's account, while overuse of data results in a charge of $10 per gigabyte.[30] While outside the United States, cellular phone calls cost $0.20 per minute, data costs the same $10 per gigabyte (i.e. there are no extra data charges outside of the US), while texting is free.[31] A data-only SIM card can be used on tablets and other compatible devices, including the 2013 Nexus 7, Nexus 9, and iPad Air 2. The devices must be compatible with the T-Mobile network, and users can add up to 9 data-only SIM cards in one account.[32][33]

A Group Plan, which allows users, referred to as "managers", to add other people, referred to as "members", to their subscription, costs an additional $15 per user. Group Plans let managers view data usage by member, set data notifications, add monthly allowances, and pause members' data usage.[18][19][20] In June 2017, Group Plans were updated to feature "Group Repay", in which Project Fi automatically calculates each of the members' individual shares of the bill and allows for easy payments. Such payments can be a fixed amount, an individual's total usage, or only for data usage above the standard data allotment.[34][35][36]

Devices[edit]

Reception[edit]

In a review after six months of testing the service, Nicole Lee of Engadget praised the service's plans, including its money-back feature, writing that "In the course of six months, I've barely touched my monthly 2GB data allotment and frequently receive money back each month from unused data. I found myself paying a little more than $20 a month for Fi, which is the least I've paid for a cell phone service, ever." Lee further liked the service's transition between Wi-Fi and cellular data, writing "For the most part, I didn't encounter much service disruption when doing so". Although criticizing the limited number of phones supported ("The hiccup here, of course, is that Fi is only compatible with a few phones"), she wrote that "I'd switch in a heartbeat. [...] If Fi were compatible with my iPhone".[37] JR Raphael of Computerworld also praised the pricing strategy and network transitions, describing it as "silently and seamlessly switches as needed to give you the strongest possible connection wherever you are". Raphael also wrote that "Fi's customer support is [...] actually a pretty good experience", elaborating that the "app and website are refreshingly simple and easy to use. And if you need extra help, both interfaces offer the ability to get 24/7 support from a real person via phone or email". However, he also criticized the dependency on certain phone models, writing that "if you don't have and don't want the [compatible devices], everything else about the service is irrelevant."[38]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fox, Nick (April 22, 2015). "Say hi to Fi: A new way to say hello". Official Google Blog. Google. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  2. ^ Welch, Chris (April 22, 2015). "Google launches its own mobile network for Nexus 6 owners". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  3. ^ Huet, Ellen (April 22, 2015). "Google Unveils Its 'Project Fi' Wireless Service". Forbes. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  4. ^ Velazco, Chris (April 22, 2015). "Google's Project Fi service turns multiple phone networks into one". Engadget. AOL. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  5. ^ Byford, Sam (May 22, 2015). "Google's Project Fi invites won't roll out to everyone til mid-summer". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  6. ^ Perez, Sarah (May 22, 2015). "Google's Project Fi Invites To Reach Everyone By Mid-Summer". TechCrunch. AOL. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  7. ^ Arscott, Simon (March 7, 2016). "From "Hi" to Fi to "Goodbye" to invites: 7 things we've learned about Project Fi". The Keyword Google Blog. Google. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  8. ^ Fingas, Jon (March 7, 2016). "Google's Project Fi no longer requires an invitation to join". Engadget. AOL. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  9. ^ Lardinois, Frederic (March 7, 2016). "You can now sign up for Google's Project Fi cell service without an invite". TechCrunch. AOL. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  10. ^ Jacobs, Evan (June 8, 2016). "More speed and coverage with U.S. Cellular — now part of Project Fi". The Keyword Google Blog. Google. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  11. ^ O'Kane, Sean (June 8, 2016). "Google adds US Cellular to Project Fi". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  12. ^ Amadeo, Ron (June 8, 2016). "Google's Project Fi cell service adds US Cellular to the mix". Ars Technica. Condé Nast. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  13. ^ Kugler, Tyler (July 12, 2016). "Stay connected abroad with high speed data from Project Fi". The Keyword Google Blog. Google. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  14. ^ Miller, Paul (July 12, 2016). "Google adds Three network to Project Fi's family to improve international speeds". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  15. ^ Amadeo, Ron (July 12, 2016). "Google's Project Fi gets international LTE, adds Three to carrier lineup". Ars Technica. Condé Nast. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  16. ^ Reardon, Marguerite (October 4, 2016). "Google adds Pixel phones to Project Fi lineup". CNET. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  17. ^ Welch, Chris (October 4, 2016). "Google's Pixel phones will be available through Project Fi". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  18. ^ a b Jung, Marcia (October 11, 2016). "Introducing Project Fi's group plan". The Keyword Google Blog. Google. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  19. ^ a b Ingraham, Nathan (October 11, 2016). "Google's Project Fi now has family plans". Engadget. AOL. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  20. ^ a b Statt, Nick (October 11, 2016). "Google introduces group plans for its Project Fi mobile network". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  21. ^ Metz, Cade (May 1, 2016). "In the New Wireless Universe, You're Finally at the Center". Wired. Condé Nast. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  22. ^ Lawler, Richard (August 24, 2016). "Google links Project Fi-approved WiFi hotspots to Nexus phones". Engadget. AOL. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  23. ^ a b Metz, Cade (July 12, 2016). "Google's Project Fi Is One Step Closer to Unifying the World's Wireless Networks". Wired. Condé Nast. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  24. ^ Fung, Brian (July 8, 2015). "Project Fi review: The most remarkable feature of Google's new cell service". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  25. ^ Martonik, Andrew (November 22, 2016). "What is Project Fi, how does it work and why do I want it?". Android Central. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  26. ^ El Akkad, Omar (November 23, 2015). "Why I ditched my cellphone carrier to try Google's Project Fi". The Globe and Mail. The Woodbridge Company. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  27. ^ "Use Hangouts with Project Fi". Project Fi Help. Google. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  28. ^ "Project Fi currently testing VoLTE calling for 'subset' of subscribers". 9to5Google. 18 February 2017. Retrieved 16 January 2018. 
  29. ^ "Rates for International calls, SMS, and roaming". Google. Retrieved 2 July 2018. 
  30. ^ "Phone plans & prices". Project Fi. Google. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  31. ^ "Use your phone outside the U.S." Project Fi Help. Google. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  32. ^ "Use Project Fi with tablets & other compatible devices". Project Fi Help. Google. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  33. ^ Reardon, Marguerite (December 15, 2015). "Google's experimental wireless service will work with tablets too". CNET. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 
  34. ^ Deahl, Dani (June 20, 2017). "Project Fi now automatically calculates and bills each member of a group plan". The Verge. Vox media. Retrieved June 20, 2017. 
  35. ^ Lardinois, Frederic (June 20, 2017). "Google makes splitting the cost of Project Fi group plans easier". TechCrunch. AOL. Retrieved June 20, 2017. 
  36. ^ Protalinski, Emil (June 20, 2017). "Google's Project Fi now lets you split the bill". VentureBeat. Retrieved June 20, 2017. 
  37. ^ Lee, Nicole (April 12, 2015). "After six months with Google's Project Fi, I'd switch to it if I could". Engadget. AOL. Retrieved April 21, 2017. 
  38. ^ Raphael, JR (April 14, 2016). "Project Fi revisited: 6 months with Google's weird wireless service". Computerworld. International Data Group. Retrieved April 21, 2017. 

External links[edit]