A Quick Look at What You Will—And Won’t—Get with Google Fi

Posted on November 28, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Cloud, Google, iOS, Mobile with 54 Comments

Considering switching to Google Fi? You should: It’s feature-rich, inexpensive, and transparent. But it may also not work fully with your smartphone. So let’s see how this plays out, using a few obvious examples.

As a bit of background, I use and strongly recommend Google Fi—previously called Project Fi—though I had only one (major) caveat to that recommendation to date: Until this week, the service was only compatible with a small selection of mostly Google-branded handsets. So if you used an iPhone, a Samsung Galaxy, a OnePlus, or virtually any other non-Google Android phone, you were out of luck.

Well, that just changed. Effective immediately, Google Fi is now compatible with iPhone and most Android handsets. The issue is that you won’t necessarily get the full Fi experience on phones that weren’t designed specifically for Fi. These phones—which include the Pixel 2/2 XL, Pixel 3/3 XL, the Moto G6 and Moto X, and the LG V35 ThinQ and G7 ThinQ, include special networking hardware that lets them seamlessly switch between networks, a key Fi benefit. (In the U.S. those networks are T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular.) You also lose some other features, like the Fi VPN.

So let’s compare and contrast. Let’s see what Google Fi features are available across three phones I’ve used in recent months: The Google Pixel 2 XL, the OnePlus 6T, and the Apple iPhone XS.

Google Pixel 2 XL

Unlimited talk/text for $20 per month. Yes
Data for $10 per 1 GB per month. Yes
Bill protection at 6 GB per month. Yes
Full-speed data to 15 GB per month. Yes
Group plan. Yes.
Free international data roaming. Yes
Free international texting. Yes
Affordable international phone calls. Yes
No contracts. Yes
Seamless switching between cell networks and Wi-Fi hot-spots. Yes
Automatic VPN protection. Yes
Data-free SIM cards for other devices. Yes
Googe Fi mobile app. Yes

The Pixel 2 XL is fully Fi-compatible, so you get the entire range of Google Fi functionality.

OnePlus 6T

Unlimited talk/text for $20 per month. Yes
Data for $10 per 1 GB per month. Yes
Bill protection at 6 GB per month. Yes
Full-speed data to 15 GB per month. Yes
Group plan. Yes.
Free international data roaming. Yes
Free international texting. Yes
Affordable international phone calls. Yes
No contracts. Yes
Seamless switching between cell networks and Wi-Fi hot-spots. NO
Automatic VPN protection.  NO
Data-free SIM cards for other devices. Yes
Googe Fi mobile app. Yes

The two key missing pieces here are the lack of seamless network switching and lack of automatic VPN protection.

Apple iPhone XS

Unlimited talk/text for $20 per month. Yes
Data for $10 per 1 GB per month. Yes
Bill protection at 6 GB per month. Yes
Full-speed data to 15 GB per month. Yes
Group plan. Yes.
Free international data roaming. Yes
Free international texting. Yes
Affordable international phone calls. Yes
No contracts. Yes
Seamless switching between cell networks and Wi-Fi hot-spots.  NO
Automatic VPN protection. NO
Data-free SIM cards for other devices. Yes
Googe Fi mobile app. Yes

The two key missing pieces here are the lack of seamless network switching and lack of automatic VPN protection.

But Google also notes that iPhone users will need to make a manual configuration change for text messaging to work correctly, something that is common with mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) like Google Fi. That said, iMessage works fine.

Also problematic, there’s no visual voicemail support on Google Fi. To make up for this, Google will text message you a transcription of each voicemail you receive, which is nice.


I’ll start testing Google Fi with my OnePlus 6T starting this week. I’m excited by these changes, and I had never expected an improvement this dramatic.

You can learn more about Google Fi on the Google Fi website.

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