Tall Geek
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Tall Geek

Google Project Fi — The cell phone company you never heard of

I switched to Project Fi for my cell phone provider about a month ago. Project Fi is brought to you by Google is a new player to the cell phone provider game. They do not exclusively run their own cell towers, but lease them from Sprint and T-Mobile. They use similar features of their Google Voice product, but not every feature is available.

I decided to switch based upon my family monthly bill being $145 with Sprint for two lines. The plan I was on had unlimited talk and text as well as unlimited data. A look at my actual data usage showed I rarely, if ever, went above 2GB a month. Now I could have shopped around for a plan with Sprint, but this is where Project Fi really shines… unlimited talk and text for $20 a month, and then $10 increments of 1GB data. I couldn’t match a $40 individual plan with Sprint.


So I decided to be the guinea pig and switch. First, I bought a Nexus 6P from Amazon. It comes in 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB flavors. Go big or go home, right? I picked up the 128GB version. When I received it, I ordered a SIM card from Project Fi. You can also choose to buy the SIM card and phone from Project Fi all at once if you want. I got a bit of a better deal on the price from Amazon.

This is what is neat about Project Fi, provided you have a compatible unlocked phone, you can buy it anywhere and just put the SIM card in. Project Fi currently supports the Nexus 6, Nexus 5 and Nexus 6P.

Hopefully more phones from more manufacturers will be available soon. Primarily the phone needs to support both a CDMA and GSM network to support both Sprint and T-Mobile towers.

Now, switching cell phone providers wouldn’t be without it’s challenges, right? I had started the porting process to Google Voice the day after my contract was up on Sprint. This worked quickly and effortlessly. The problems began when I received my SIM card from Google and inserted it into the phone. I kept getting a message on the phone saying there a problem transferring my number to Project Fi. I was a little confused, because I thought one Google product (Google Voice) was the same as another (Project Fi).

But apparently in the world of Google (or Alphabet now), these are two separate entities. Granted, the process will take mere moments, but that was not my experience. I needed to start a chat session with a Project Fi service rep to get this happening.

I was told there was some issue on their side and it wasn’t anything I did, but in order to keep my phone number, I had to temporarily create a new Gmail ID and then create a Google Voice account over there. I was then able to select any arbitrary number and I let Project Fi know of my newly created Gmail address. They then assigned my number to this new account and said it would take 24 to 48 hours for me to be able to switch it back to primary account.

I was able to do this after inquiring on the beginning of the next work week how my number port was going. A different rep replied and said it is all set and I just needed to start my Fi app on the phone and start the transfer. Once done, this occurred within the hour.

I have now been using Project Fi for over a month, and I must say, it just works. It handles the switching of different cell towers, or using my WiFi for calls. Seems a bit weird how it selects when to use what, but as long as I can send or receive calls, I don’t really care how it transmits.

The Fi app is very clean and gives you all you need to know in three distinct tabs (Account, Billing and Support). As far as switching from unlimited data to my new $10 per GB, I really enjoy it. I tend to realize that I may not want to suck up my data on my phone like I used to, but Project Fi is very fair when it comes to data costs. You either pay up front, so I decided to opt for 2GB of data for a whopping $40 a month phone bill. If I don’t use all of it, you get a credit in the same amount for what you do not use. Same goes for if you exceed your limit — you just pay the same amount (1 cent per MB) in overages.

My new cell phone bill roughly amounts to $35 to $40 a month based on my usage. This bests my Sprint bill for me individually at $72 a month.

The real kicker I experienced here was after I had transferred and contacted Sprint to lower my plan for just wife, the lowest plan they gave me was $60 a month for unlimited text and talk with 1GB “high speed” data, and then unlimited 2G data after that. I didn’t want unlimited and slow data, but that’s what I get.

Hopefully my wife will come join me in Project Fi when her contract is up next year so we can save even more money.



Musings of a Technology Professional

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