Back in January I reviewed Google’s new cellular service called Project Fi. I happened to fall in love with Google’s own cellular service for its great pricing, excellent coverage, fast responding customer service(based in the US), and simplicity. While I gave my opinion on it, there are so many variables that come into play when picking a wireless provider.

It’s well known that Verizon has the best coverage in the US hands down. The major downside to Verizon is its CDMA network which doesn’t allow for compatibility for many phones, and its higher priced data plans.

T-Mobile users love their unlimited data, no overage fees, free streaming videos and music, and free giveaways. Yet the general consensus about T-Mobile is that its coverage is not as wide spread as Verizon and AT&T.

AT&T users arguably have the best of both worlds, with pricing that falls in between T-Mobile’s and Verizon’s, but there is also a wide selection of phones to choose from. In addition, AT&T’s mobile network is considered second best to Verizon’s.

Sprint also uses CDMA technology and offers great pricing on its plans, but has been struggling lately. Other than pricing, its network is limited and is quietly being forgotten by consumers in the US.

For those who are tired of playing the major carrier’s games

Google shocked us all last year with its announcement that it would be entering the carrier providing realm with Project Fi. For the vast majority of us, we are locked into two-year contracts or smartphone leasing options that make it very difficult for us to switch carriers. That’s why you have to rely on writers like me to give you the low down on Project Fi.

While Project Fi isn’t for everyone, especially those who consume more than 3GB of data a month, it is a great option for those who care about simplicity with great pricing.

Now that Project Fi has been out for just about a year now, there are thousands of users who have given it a try. So far the feedback is pretty unanimous with the vast majority of users giving Project Fi a five star rating.

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Actual Project Fi consumers are happy with the broad coverage they are receiving, in combination with the ability to make calls and send texts over WiFi which helps save on data consumption. They’re also extremely happy with paying for data that they actually use, which costs just $10 per GB of data after the $20 service fee for unlimited calls and text messages.

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Similar to T-Mobile, Project Fi can also be used internationally without additional fees.

The average American used 1.8GB of data per month in 2014. Yes, I know there are you vocal T-Mobile customers who will comment below, that you use 30GB of data per hour (exaggeration), but Project Fi isn’t for you. The consumers who consume that much data are outliers, and the vast population uses just 1.8GB which translates into $18.00 per month on Project Fi. Add in the $20 service fee for calls and texts, and the average monthly cell phone bill works out to $38.00 per month using Google’s service.

According to a report from ArsTechnica, the average US consumer cell phone bill on a major carrier is over $120 per month. $120 per month over the course of one year works out to be $1440. 

You can finance a smartphone through Google’s Project Fi at $9 per month (5X), have unlimited calls and texts ($20), and pay for 3GB of data ($30) and pay just $59 per month. If you’re an average Verizon customer, you will save $89 per month! Over a full year you will save exactly $1068. Not bad for those who care about saving money.

Arstechnica
Arstechnica

Limitations of Project Fi

One of the biggest drawbacks to Project Fi is its highly limited devices that it supports. As of right now, outside of tablets, the service is only usable on a Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P and Nexus 6. That means people who want to use an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy device are out of luck.

The reasons for going with just three devices are they are easier to support for Google and its new customer support team. Google also doesn’t have to play by Samsung’s or Apple’s rules with their devices and can update and monitor its Google designed Nexus devices as it pleases. It’s also nice that Google doesn’t install bloatware like Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T which saves up to 3GB of storage on your smartphones.

Google’s Project Fi also uses cellular service from Sprint, US Cellular and T-Mobile. This is good that it allows users to hop onto the strongest and most available network. However when you are on the Sprint network, it is sometimes limited by allowing you to use data while on a call. For some this is a deal breaker.

Project Fi coverage map
Project Fi coverage map

In addition to the limitations listed above, there are no brick and mortar locations for help if you need it with Project Fi. There are many people who need to help in person at an AT&T, Verizon, Sprint or T-Mobile store, and as of right now Google doesn’t have that as an option. Physical locations add overhead costs to your cell phone bills, and Google is focusing on its in house customer service team to help its customers.

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So who is Project Fi for?

Since Project Fi is a pay per use service, if you are someone who uses a lot of data, you can consume more data than it is worth. Again, users like you are better off on pricing plans on T-Mobile which start at $95 for a single user for unlimited data. AT&T customers can access unlimited data for $100 a month if they also subscribe to DirecTV. Verizon doesn’t offer unlimited data plans as of right now unless you were grandfathered in from its unlimited data plan from several years ago.

If you’re a typical user who doesn’t need an iPhone or unlimited data, you can save over $60 per month if you pay for what you use (if you consume less than 2GB a month). Factor in the cost of a Nexus 5X which can be had for as low as $199, and you can literally save yourself over $1000 in just one year.

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Just because the Nexus 5X is priced so affordably doesn’t mean it is a budget phone by any means. It has access to the latest updates from Google, runs Android M, has a great 13MP camera, 1080P display, and is buttery smooth.

If you want a more premium device from Google, you can go with the Nexus 6P which is almost universally accepted as one of the best devices you can get today by Android enthusiasts. It starts at $499 for the 32GB base model, and works its way up to $649 for the 128Gb model.

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If you are the type of person who doesn’t have to travel a lot for work, or live in a rural area where only AT&T and Verizon have coverage, Project Fi is for you. It’s for the users who take advantage of their WiFi connections at home and in the office allowing for minimal data usage. Even at 4GB per month, you would only be paying $60 a month for service from Project Fi. If you financed your 16GB Nexus 5X, you would be paying $40-$70 a month depending on if you used 2GB-4GB per month of data.

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While I admit that I love Project Fi, I need service that allows me access to a variety of phones for this writing gig at AndroidGuys. Not to mention, I get a corporate discount on my AT&T plan and is paid for by my 9-5, M-F job. Yet whenever my mom and dad ask me what phones and service their friends should get, I always recommend Project Fi and the Nexus 5X for them.

So far my parents have switched over four of their friends, and all of them find it extremely easy to use and love the pricing. Keep in mind these four people are in their mid 60s and know just about nothing about tech and they did it following simple steps Google laid out for them. Not once have any of them asked me for help, instead they emailed me to let me know how much they love their new service and phone.

If you are like most users, Project Fi might be a worthy investment for you as it might save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on your smartphones and service. At worst, if you give Project Fi a try and do not like it, your Nexus device is fully compatible with any network in the US. Simply cancel your Project Fi service through the app and go back to the carrier of your choice.

It’s time you listen to the actual reviewers who use Project Fi on a regular basis, and pay attention to their cost savings in addition to great cellular coverage.

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