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Google Fi review

Google Fi is a different kind of phone plan, but only for some smartphones.

Google Fi review
(Image: © Google)

Our Verdict

Google Fi boasts intelligent network-switching capabilities and nationwide 5G service, but only a limited number of smartphone models can take full advantage.

For

  • Reasonable unlimited plan
  • Intuitive website and setup
  • Nationwide 5G coverage for compatible smartphones

Against

  • Limited iPhone functionality
  • Budget plan charges quickly add up

Google Fi, is touted as "a different kind of phone plan" that customers can join from home, and tailor to their families’ needs. It offers nationwide 5G coverage, by using the major phone networks and intelligently shifting between them for the best speeds and connectivity. 

On the plus side you not only get that great high-speed national coverage but it also comes at a low price. That combo places Google Fi firmly on our list of the best cell phone providers

But it's not perfect. Only the best smartphones can work in this smart switching tech, and since this is Google it doesn't play so well with iPhone. It will work on unlocked iPhones but won't offer the full array of features you can get access to with something like one of its own Pixel phones.

Google Fi: Unlimited plan

  • Plans from $30 per month per device (six subscribers)
  • Up to $70 per month per device (one subscriber)

What’s helpful about Google Fi is the fact that the website makes it easy to compare and contrast plans. On top of that, the more people that are added to a plan, the lower the per-person cost gets, making it especially ideal for families. A single user can get unlimited calls, texts, and data for $70 a month, and the per-device cost goes down with every person added to the plan (up to six people total).

On top of unlimited calls, texts, and data, the plan also includes full-speed hotspot tethering at no extra charge, free data and texts outside of the United States, and free calls to 50 countries and territories, and a Google One membership with 100GB of cloud storage per member. The hotspot tethering is particularly useful, as subscribers can share their data connection with up to ten other devices at once, essentially providing Wi-Fi where there’s no external connection available.

That unlimited data comes with a couple of caveats, though. The fine print specifies that the plan comes with unlimited 4G LTE data, not the 5G speeds headlining the website - if you want full 5G on a cheaper plan, go check out Mint Mobile instead. Compatible phones will be able to access 5G where available, but subscribers shouldn’t expect that to be the default. Additionally, video may stream at 480p, and Google slows down data speeds after 22GB per person per cycle. That’s a lot of data for the average person, but those who use their smartphones for work or as a main source of entertainment might soon find themselves struggling with slower speeds.

Despite the restrictions on data, Google’s unlimited plan is pretty reasonably priced, particularly for households with multiple members and high usage needs. The unlimited international texts and data are also a bonus, as using an American smartphone in foreign countries can often be unnecessarily complicated and pricey.

Google Fi: Flexible plan

  • Plans from $16 per month per device, plus $10/GB data (six subscribers)
  • Up to $20 per month per device, plus $10/GB data (one subscriber)

Google Fi’s budget option is the flexible plan, which runs around $20/month plus $10 for every gigabyte of data used. Like the unlimited plan, the flexible options get cheaper with every device added to the plan, though in this case the difference between one user ($20/month) and six users ($16/month per device) is marginal.

While that appears entirely reasonable on paper, the pay-as-you-go data charges can quickly add up. Bill Protection kicks in after 6GB for a single person and 18GB for a party of six, so you won’t be charged for additional data after that amount, but using that much makes the flexible plan more expensive than the unlimited plan. Those considering the flexible plan should take a good look at their current smartphone data usage before making the switch, as it could end up being more expensive than the unlimited plan in the long run.

This $10/GB data rate also applies for hotspot tethering and international usage, with data slowed after 15GB per individual per billing cycle. Calls to other countries start at a penny a minute, while international texts are free. The only major feature missing is the Google One membership, which is only included in the unlimited plan.

One thing to note about both plan options: while they have decent international communication rates, the plans are only available to United States residents.

Google Fi: Cell phone options

  • Selection of phones “designed for Fi,” including Samsung Galaxy and Pixel models
  • Can be used with most phones, though not with full features

Where Google Fi falls short is in its limited compatibility options. The Google Fi website lists about a dozen phones “designed for Fi,” among them the Samsung Galaxy S21, Pixel 4a, Pixel 5, and Moto G Stylus. Only these specific models — none of which are iPhones — can use one of Google Fi’s core features, the ability to automatically switch among “millions of secure Wi-Fi connections” for the best possible connection at all times. Additionally, only unlocked phones on T-Mobile’s 5G network will have access to 5G speeds.

Google Fi

(Image credit: Samsung)

Those looking to bring their existing phone to Google Fi might be able to do so, as the network is compatible with a number of phones from Apple, HTC, and other manufacturers. The website makes it easy to figure out if your existing phone is compatible, but expect to have to make some concessions if your model wasn’t specifically designed to be used with Google Fi.

If you’re particularly attached to the ecosystem, Google Fi probably isn’t the best option for you. It’s still on beta on iOS, so iPhone users will have to use the Google Fi app to check their voicemail and do some finagling to get text messages to work properly. Oh, and there’s one more thing: iPhones need to be unlocked before switching to Fi, which may not be an option if you purchased yours through a wireless carrier. 

Google Fi: Customer reviews and satisfaction

As Google Fi doesn’t have a Better Business Bureau rating, we looked to app reviews on the Google Play Store to get an idea of what users were saying about the purchase. The app itself has a rating of 3.8/5, with many of the 18,444 reviews giving the app (and service) five stars. Many positive reviews praise the cost of the service, as well as Google Fi’s “fast and reliable” customer service.

One positive review, from Senator Mike Michaels: "I've had good experience using the cellular service, and the app provides lots of helpful information; however I would like an option to have more high speed data, above the 22g/month on the "unlimited" plan. Perhaps some sort of "unlimited +" plan with 50g/month high speed data, please."

On the flip side, there are a number of recent comments criticizing Google Fi. The most common complaints stated that the service was unreliable, text messages weren’t working, and data speeds were slow to nonexistent.

One negative review, from Kathryn Larter, says: "Google Fi used to be great. I was always excited to call customer service in the past. Now when I need help, I seem to get people who are unhappy sounding or snarky. They still kind of help with my problems, but often it's just more like a *shrug* mentality instead of feeling like they'd go above and beyond."

Should you choose Google Fi?

After a comprehensive analysis of Google Fi’s features and pricing, it’s clear that this is a great wireless network for a limited number of smartphone users. It’s relatively easy to navigate pricing and plan options via the website, and users can set everything up from the comfort of their own homes. The biggest point in Google Fi’s favor is its comparatively affordable unlimited plan, which is a great option for heavy data users who don’t particularly care which smartphone they use.

It’s not particularly surprising that Google wants to encourage Fi subscribers to use its own Pixel smartphone, but limiting features on the iPhone, the most popular smartphone in the world, also limits the number of people who can get the most out of this service. 

Ultimately, it comes down to priorities: would you rather have a comprehensive unlimited data plan that covers your entire household for less money than Google Fi’s competitors? Or would you rather have the freedom to choose which smartphone model to use without limiting key features like 5G service? Those who would choose the latter option are probably better off with another plan from the likes of Verizon Wireless, our top provider.