Google Fi Now Supports Visual Voicemail on iPhone

Posted on May 4, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, Mobile, iOS, Android with 20 Comments

The new version of Google Fi for iPhone now supports that platform’s visual voicemail functionality, a significant improvement.

“Visual voicemail (yes, finally!),” the Google Fi app landing page on Apple’s App Store notes under the “What’s New” listing. “Now your voicemails show up in a list, and you can listen, read the transcripts or reply—right from the app.” The latest version of the app also adds some “slicker animations and transitions, which you’ll probably only notice subconsciously.”

Google rebranded its Project Fi wireless network service as Google Fi in November 2018 and, more momentously, added support for iPhone and most Android handsets too. Previously, the service worked only with Google’s own phones and with a very short list of certified devices.

But this compatibility came with a few limitations. Those with iPhones and non-Fi-certified handsets cannot take advantage of Google Fi’s incredible network switching capability that moves connectivity to whatever GSM or CDMA network has the best reception on the fly. And on iPhone, Google Fi could not take advantage of iOS’s visual voicemail feature.

When I first tested Google Fi with iPhone in December, I was able to experience Google’s workaround for visual voicemail: The firm sends a text message containing a rough transcription of the voicemail. If you wanted to actually hear the voicemail, you had to call your carrier’s voicemail phone number and navigate through menus with your keypad.

No more. Now you can use your iPhone with Google Fi like it’s 2019.

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Comments (20)

20 responses to “Google Fi Now Supports Visual Voicemail on iPhone”

  1. zeratul456

    Now if only it came to Europe :)

    • wright_is

      In reply to zeratul456:

      It is too expensive, at least here. I get 10GB data for the price of Google Fi + 1GB data. If I regularly exceeded 20GB of data, the price protection might be useful, but I generally stay under my 10GB cap.

      • karlinhigh

        In reply to wright_is:

        A big Google Fi selling point in some parts of the USA is the carrier switching. Does Europe commonly have incompatible carrier networks (CDMA vs GSM) or are all carriers using the same infrastructure?

        • wright_is

          In reply to karlinhigh:

          They all use GSM, on the whole. The carriers also have to ensure they give good coverage, if they don't, they could lose their license.

          O2 is being threatened with funds and removal of their license, unless they can get their coverage over 95%by the end of the year.

  2. wocowboy

    What is the problem for not including more phones in the network-switching capability thing, which as Paul says is arguably Google Fi’s greatest feature. I used Google Fi on my Pixel 1 and it worked flawlessly, I was almost never without a great signal from either T-Mobile, Sprint, or US Cellular. With current “non-certified” phones you only have access to T-Mobile, which is much better than they used to be, but disabling network switching is a great hobble and downside that should be addressed. I don’t know why Google doesn’t do it.

    • JerryH

      In reply to wocowboy:

      They would do it if they could. The problem is that the phone's radios / SoC need to support it. That support apparently costs something, so most phone makers don't include it.

      • wocowboy

        In reply to JerryH:

        OK. For example, due to regulations regarding the 700 MHz spectrum that Verizon uses for their LTE service, all the phones Verizon sells must be unlocked. This gives the customer the ability to use an old Verizon phone they have lying around on pretty much any carrier just by inserting a SIM card for that carrier, whether it's a CDMA or GSM carrier, depending on device capability. So am I correct in thinking that this capability is something totally different from the on-the-fly network switching used for Google Fi service?

  3. jgraebner

    When it says "Now your voicemails show up in a list, and you can listen, read the transcripts or reply—right from the app", which app are they referring to? Is this really supporting the iPhone's built in Visual Voicemail or is Google Fi duplicating it in their own app?

  4. harrymyhre

    This news influences me to pull the trigger on trading in my iPhone 6s Plus for an iPhone XR.

    Along with paul’s Positive review of the XR and two other friends who like it.

    As I was setting up the iPhone in the apple store they asked me “which carrier”? When I said “Google Fi” a long pause transpired.


    Then they said “that’s cool”

  5. Dashrender

    Call your carriers voicemail number - wouldn't that be Google Fi?

  6. karlinhigh

    I wonder what T-Mobile's planned acquisition of Sprint means for Google Fi's carrier switching?

  7. wright_is

    I had forgotten all about Visual Voicemail (and the Android equivalent). I haven't used Voicemail in about 10 years. My current phone (Huawei P20) supports the Android equivalent of visual voicemail, but voicemail is turned off on all company contracts.

    Likewise, I've not bothered to turn it on on my private contract either.

  8. michael_jones

    It's an interesting idea, but but their calculator I'd save exactly $0 over my current Verizon plan for 3 phones and 8GB of data domestically day-to-day. Given that I have 2 Gen 3+ apple watches on VZW as well, a service like this one will probably never work for me other than in very limited situations. It seems great if you use a ton of data and not a lot of talk time.

    • BoItmanLives

      In reply to Michael_Jones: It seems great if you use a ton of data and not a lot of talk time.

      That's most people under the age of 50 these days

      • michael_jones

        In reply to BoItmanLives: Well I guess I'm not your typical under 50 then, given that I'm in my mid-40's. I've been with Verizon since 1997 and to this date they are still the only carrier that has service in some parts of the midwest where I'm originally from and where my Dad still lives. I could switch to Verizon Unlimited (granted the lowest tier) and it would still be approx. the same price as Google Fi when you hit the limit where it stops charging for more data, but then starts throttling your speed. Look, I get it, I'm a techie, and this plan works great for some people like Paul and maybe you, but it's far from a cost slam dunk across the board for everyone.

  9. Gerard Samuel

    Still missing WiFi calling. I’ll stay put with my carrier and keep an eye on the Fi.

  10. jchampeau

    Did they fix the network-switching thing or just visual voicemail? I'm interested in Fi with my iPhone XR but T-mobile doesn't have good coverage in many parts of my state, so I'll need the multi-carrier thing to work before it's a viable option for me.

  11. harrymyhre

    will Be curious to see how my iPhone running fi works in Europe.