If you’re an Android enthusiast, you likely know about Project Fi. But that doesn’t mean you necessarily know everything about it. And for everyone out there who doesn’t have one of the handful of phones that work with the carrier are unlikely to have looked into Project Fi deeply. So we’re here to give you the high-level view at the carrier option that comes directly from Google. Namely, just what the heck it is, how it works compared to other carriers and maybe a few reasons why you’d want to try it.
November 13, 2018 — Project Fi now encrypts all data traffic
Google today announced a change to Project Fi (soon to be Google Fi, perhaps) that will enable an always-on VPN (virtual private network) for data traffic over both cellular and third-party WiFi networks. A VPN can be seen as a tunnel that data goes through, and anything in that tunnel is encrypted to keep snoopers from seeing what you’re doing on any given network. Project Fi previously used a VPN for all cellular traffic, but today’s change keeps you protected during those times you duck in and out of WiFi coverage.
Speaking of which, Google introduced a new enhancement which will continuously monitor the connection quality on your phone and seamlessly swap between WiFi and cellular traffic when it needs to. Cellular-WiFi handoffs are nothing new either, but the standard implementation usually waits until you’re completely out of range of your WiFi network before it switches to mobile data, by which time you may already have issues using your apps despite technically being connected. This change should make it more proactive and aggressive to ensure you’re always on a connection that’s actually usable.
As the feature is considered in beta, you’ll need to opt-in using the Project Fi mobile app. Your phone will need to be on Android Pie, and must be fully compatible with Project Fi in order for it to work. Google says it may take the whole part of a week for the feature to reach everyone, so sit tight if you’re not seeing it right away.
November 1, 2018 — Project Fi will be renamed as ‘Google Fi’ and get a new logo
Google first debuted Project Fi in 2015 as an experimental new cell service that only worked with the Nexus 6. Since then, it’s gained new features, more streamlined pricing, and support for a heap of new phones. If you thought that the “Project” moniker was getting a little long in the tooth, the folks at Google appear to have been thinking the same thing, too.
One Redditor that recently purchased the new Pixel 3 found a pamphlet for Project Fi in the box that refers to the service as “Googe Fi” and has a new logo that more closely matches logos for Google Search, Home, Assistant, etc.
It’s unclear when an official announcement will be made, but we’ll let you know as soon as that happens.
What do you think of Project Fi’s new name?
September 19, 2018 — Project Fi credits can now be shared in family plans
Google frequently gives out Fi credits with various promotions, and while these are great, they’ve previously been locked to the user that received them. In other words, if you got Fi credits are part of a family plan, those credits couldn’t be used towards your group’s entire bill.
As of today, that’s now changing!
According to a Googler on the Project Fi subreddit and the Project Fi support page, any credits you receive can be shared with other members of your family plan. To turn this on or off, go to the Project Fi website, click on Billing, and then choose Fi Credit under the Payment Settings section.
September 5, 2018 — Get $300 off the LG G7 and V35, $250 Fi credit when purchasing a Pixel 2 XL
If you’ve been waiting for a great deal to get you to switch to Project Fi or upgrade your current phone, Google’s got a couple new offers to hopefully push you over the edge.
First up, you can now instantly take $300 off any LG phone on Project Fi. The G7 and V35 are the only two LG handsets currently available, and this brings them down to just $449 and $599, respectively.
If you’d prefer to get the Pixel 2 XL, you can score $250 in Fi credits when ordering the phone. You’ll still pay $849 upfront for the phone, but that $250 goes towards your monthly bill.
These deals are available for a limited time, so if you want either one, make sure you act sooner rather than later!
August 15, 2018 — Project Fi is getting rid of text forwarding
Project Fi is chock-full of helpful features, one of which is text forwarding — the ability to have all of your text messages that are sent to your Fi number also go to other numbers you set up.
Unfortunately, text forwarding is going away after September 12 😞.
Call forwarding will continue to work (i.e. calls to your Fi number are sent to other numbers), but text forwarding will be no more. Google didn’t provide any reasoning for this move, but in any case, we’ll play our sad violin for any of you that relied on it. And in any case, if you need access to your Fi texts on other devices you can use the Hangouts app, which for now still has Fi integration.
July 16, 2018 — Get a $300 credit when pre-ordering the G7 or V35
It’s been almost a month since the LG G7 and V35 appeared on Project Fi, and if you’ve been holding off on picking one up for yourself, a new promotion for a $300 Fi credit might finally push you over the edge.
Between now and July 29 (while supplies last), you can get a $300 credit that’s applied towards your monthly Project Fi bill when pre-ordering either the G7 or V35 for $749 and $899, respectively.
If you already pre-ordered either of the phones when Google was running its $100 Fi credit promo, you’ll be receiving an email shortly on how to claim your other $200.
June 19, 2018 — LG G7 and V35 now available for pre-order
LG’s first Project Fi phones, the G7 and V35, are now available for pre-order!
The G7 is the more affordable of the two at $749 outright or $31.21/month for 24 months, whereas the V35 will set you back a hefty $899 or $37.46/month for 24 months.
No matter which one you choose, Google’s offering a $100 Fi credit when you pre-order either one. This is a limited time offer and will only be available through July 7, 2018, at 11:59 PM PT.
June 5, 2018 — You can now add kids under 13-years-old to your family plan
Leveraging its Family Link suite of digital parental tools, Google now allows you to add kids to your Project Fi family plan that are under 13-years-old.
After making a Google account for your kiddo(s) through Family Link, you’ll be able to add them to your Project Fi plan like any other adult user. They’ll have access to all of the features everyone else on your plan has, but of course, you can limit how much time they spend on their phone through the Family Link app.
Kids also cost the same at $15/month for the Fi Basics (calling and texting) and then $10 per GB of data they use.
What is Project Fi?
At the highest level, Project Fi is a phone carrier operated by Google. It works by giving you mobile data service on three mobile networks, which your phone will intelligently switch between — it also uses Wi-Fi to make calls and send texts whenever available. Project Fi is a “prepaid” carrier, meaning you pay upfront for your service in the trailing month, which is the opposite of a traditional carrier (Verizon, AT&T, etc.) that bills you after you use the service.
It’s all about simplified billing with no hidden fees or overages.
Project Fi is focused on simplified billing. You pay $20 per month for unlimited talk and texting, and a flat rate of $10 per gigabyte of data used. At the start of each month you simply estimate how much data you’ll use (by the gigabyte) and pay for that amount — at the end of the month you’ll receive either a refund for data you didn’t use, or pay a little extra on the next bill for data overages. You’ll always pay at the same $10 per gigabyte rate either way. Bill Protection applies to international data usage the same as home usage.
The only time that doesn’t apply is when you hit a level called “Bill Protection” — effectively an unlimited plan tier for Fi. Once you’ve used 6GB ($60) of data in a given month, your bill is then capped at that point for the month but you continue to get data service. You can use as much data as you want for the month without paying over $80 total ($20 base + $60 data). The only caveat here is that once you hit 15GB of total data usage, your speeds are slowed to 256kbps — alternatively, at the 15GB point you can choose to start paying $10 per GB again for full-speed data if needed.
The huge benefit here is that you don’t have to pay for an “unlimited” plan every month — it’s simply there if you use beyond 6GB of data in a month. All other months when you use less than 6GB of data your bill will be less than $80.
You can also set up a “Group Plan” on Project Fi for up to six people to share a single account and billing source. With a Group Plan, all of the same features of an individual plan apply, but you save $5 per person per month on the base plan charge. Billing is handled centrally by the account owner, along with data limitations for each user (if needed) — Bill Protection data usage limits are also handled on a per-person basis. Project Fi charges the group owner for everyone’s bill collectively, but can also facilitate payments back to the account admin from each member to pay their share. Individuals can come and go from a Group Plan as they wish, without any contract.
Unlike most other prepaid carriers, Project Fi is available for just a handful of phones: the Google Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 2, Moto X4, Pixel XL, Pixel, Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X and Nexus 6. You can also use a data-only SIM card with any tablet that supports the T-Mobile network.
How does it work?
Project Fi works with a special SIM card — and a little software on your phone — that can authenticate you on T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular, and switch between them on the fly based on a variety of factors. On the new Pixel 2 and 2 XL, an integrated eSIM lets you use Project Fi without a physical SIM card and quickly switch between Project Fi and another carrier’s SIM.
Using Wi-Fi for calls and texts, you can keep using your phone in places where mobile data isn’t that great. Extra software called a “Wi-Fi assistant” will automatically connect your phone to open Wi-Fi access points when you’re out of the house, reducing your data usage without any intervention on your part.
You get the power of three mobile networks, plus Wi-Fi, in a single SIM
When you use Project Fi, you also get some of the same features that have made Google Voice popular over the years. You can forward phone calls to your Fi number to any phone you want, as well as view voicemail, make calls and send texts with that number from any device using the Hangouts app and website.
Project Fi also works internationally in 120 countries around the world with no additional cost for data use or texting. You can call at a flat rate to any number while on the cellular networks abroad, or pay much lower rates when calling on Wi-Fi. You can also call back home to the U.S. on Wi-Fi for free. Data used internationally just comes out of your standard $10 per gigabyte bucket, but speeds can vary depending on the country you’re in.
What phones are available?
When Project Fi launched in 2015, the only phone that supported it was the Nexus 6. Google’s been expanding this list over the years, and while the list of compatible phones isn’t nearly on the same level as carriers such as T-Mobile and Verizon, it’s one that’s growing all the time.
Along with Google’s own Pixel 2 and 2 XL, other phones that work on Project Fi include the Moto G6, LG G7, LG V35, and others.
Why do I want it?
Well, this is really a personal question of whether you actually want to try Project Fi. Chances are if you’re reading Android Central you’re at least one step closer to being the target audience for the Google-powered carrier, but there are a few other boxes to check that make it the right choice for you.
Simplicity in the service and billing are paramount to the experience.
The only big issue for most people is the limited phone choices. Google lets you use its latest phones, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, on Project Fi, in addition to a small selection of handsets from Motorola and LG — including the Moto G6, LG G7, and a couple others.
If you’re okay with that limitation, you don’t have many other hurdles to jump over. You can sign up for Project Fi online in minutes, and you can either buy a Pixel phone at the same time or Google will send you a SIM card to put in your existing Pixel or Nexus. Once it arrives, you can start the typical porting process of bringing your current phone number to Fi, or can start fresh with a new number. You can use Project Fi for as long or short as you want, as there aren’t any contracts or commitments involved.
There are lots of cool features that make Project Fi a good choice, like the simplified billing, included international features and improved network coverage through the use of three carriers and Wi-Fi networks. Each one will have a different amount of draw for different people, though.
Project Fi’s pricing isn’t dramatically lower than other carriers out there, and whether it makes a good choice financially for you depends on your data usage and which features you want. We encourage you to do your pricing research before choosing which carrier is the best.
And whether you’re still on the fence or just curious about it, be sure to follow all of our Project Fi coverage here at Android Central!
Updated November 2018: Everything is encrypted! Added the latest news about Fi’s always-on VPN.