Update: I have happily used Fi for three years now, but there are some systemic issues with Google that can cause major problems that you should be aware of before you switch.
If you don’t have Google Fi, you can get a $20 Fi credit (in addition to the phone deals below) by using our link, or one in the comments. We receive a credit as well, and appreciate the support!
Well this is exciting news!
As of today, my favorite phone plan for international travelers is now officially available on iPhones and additional Android devices. And there are some great rebates available if you make the move today.
The following Apple devices are now supported (All phones must run iOS 11.0 or higher):
- iPhone XS
- iPhone XS Max
- iPhone XR
- iPhone X
- iPhone 8 & 8 Plus
- iPhone 7 & 7 Plus
- iPhone 6S & 6S Plus
- iPhone 6 & 6 Plus
- iPhone 5S
- iPhone SE
And there are an assortment of Samsung, LG, Motorola, and other models now supported as well, provided they meet certain requirements.
Google Fi has informally functioned on most of these phones for awhile anyway, but sometimes it’s nice to go legit 😉 . Prior to switching to my beloved Pixel 2 I was using an unsupported Android phone on Fi, and it worked fine 95% of the time, but of course the 5% of the time that I had minor issues it would have been nice to be able to utilize Fi’s tech support.
How is Google Fi different?
Traditional phone plans are really complicated — this has gotten better in the past few years, but I know we all remember the days of convoluted rules about mobile-to-mobile minutes after 7PM on Thursdays counting differently and so forth. I think my mom still has a plan like that through Verizon.
Google Fi is simple — you pay $20 per month for the first line (and $15 for each additional line), and that includes unlimited calls and texts. Data is $10 for each GB, up to 6GB for individuals, after which it’s free but at slightly reduced speeds. You can opt out of the free-but-with-reduced-speeds if you want, and if you have more people on your plan, that base number goes up.
So you get a flexible plan, but one that is also pretty consistent. You only pay for what you use, and at a flat rate for coverage that works pretty much everywhere.
Months when I have more domestic travel I’ll somewhat ironically use more data than when traveling internationally (Wifi at U.S. airports is often abysmal, so I’ll end up tethering, plus Americans are incapable of loading a 737 in under 40 minutes, so there’s often a lot of time between boarding and pushback), but my bill is typically in the same general range.
More importantly, it just works. The most aggressive troubleshooting I’ve had to do involved rebooting my phone while sitting on the tarmac in Beijing because I just couldn’t get it to connect.
Prior to Fi I happily purchased multiple SIM cards in multiple countries, and traveled with a mobile hotspot. I still take the hotspot as a backup (or when I’m traveling with a group), but I can’t tell you how much of a difference it’s made in my life to not have to mess with all that, and just have a fast, easy connection wherever I am.
TODAY ONLY — Big rebates for switching to Fi or upgrading your phone
Through 11:59 PM Pacific time on Wednesday 11/28/18, Google is offering some pretty significant savings for switching to Fi.
If you want to buy a designed-for-Fi phone
When you purchase a qualifying device on fi.google.com, you get a travel gift card in the amount you paid for the device, excluding taxes. This includes everything from the ~$249 Android One Moto x4 (which my husband has, and has been totally happy with), to a maxed-out Pixel 3 XL for ~$999. The travel gift cards are good for your choice of Airbnb, Delta Air Lines, Hotels.com, or Southwest Airlines, so there are a few options.
The full terms are as follows:
To qualify for this promotion, a device must be activated within 15 days of device shipment and remain active for 60 consecutive days within 75 days of device shipment. The device must be activated within the same group plan that was used to purchase the device. Activation must be for full service (i.e., activation does not apply to a data-only SIM).
This offer is available for new Google Fi customers as of 11/28/18 12:00 AM PT and existing, active Google Fi customers. If the customer is new to Google Fi, the customer must transfer (port-in) their current personal number over to Google Fi during sign up. The number being transferred must be currently active and have been active with the previous carrier and the customer since 8/28/18 12:00 AM PT.
After the terms have been satisfied, the customer will receive an email from Google Fi (around 75 – 90 days after device activation) with instructions on how to obtain a gift card from Tango subject to Tango’s terms and conditions. The user can redeem gift card amounts with select travel partners:Airbnb, Delta Air Lines, Hotels.com, and Southwest Airlines. Gift cards may also be subject to the terms of the travel partners.
If Fi service is paused for more than 7 days or cancelled within 120 days of activation, the value of the gift card will be charged to your Google Payments account to match the purchased price of the device. Limit one per person. This offer is only available for U.S. residents ages 18 and older, and requires Google Payments and Google Fi accounts. Unless otherwise stated, this offer cannot be combined with other offers. Offer and gift card redemption are not transferable, and are not valid for cash or cash equivalent. Void where prohibited.
As much as I love my Pixel 2 (which is a lot!), I have been eyeing the Pixel 3, and the travel rebate might push me to upgrade. Does anyone have a 3 and can compare to the 2?
If you want to bring your own phone to Google Fi
If you have a phone that’s compatible with Fi already (that wasn’t purchased through Google), you can get a $200 credit for porting your service over to Fi. This will likely be the more appealing offer for iPhone aficionados, or those with newer Android devices that want to try Fi without switching phones.
The full terms are as follows:
To qualify for the service credit, activation must be for full service (i.e., activation does not apply to a data-only SIM). Afterwards, a service credit will be applied to the purchaser’s Fi account. Customer will receive an email notifying them of the service credit after all terms and conditions have been satisfied, and the credit will be applied to the customer’s subsequent bills around 45 – 60 days after activation. If the account is paused, credits will only appear once the account is reactivated. Service credits will be applied only toward monthly service costs such as data, calls, texts, and device protection; they cannot be applied device purchase or financing.
New Google Fi users must transfer (port-in) their current personal number over to Google Fi during sign up. The number being transferred must be currently active and have been active with the previous carrier and the user since 8/28/18 12:00 AM PT.
Limit one per person. This offer is only available for U.S. residents ages 18 and older, and requires Google Payments and Google Fi accounts. Unless otherwise stated, offer cannot be combined with other offers. Offer and service credits are not transferable, and are not valid for cash or cash equivalent. Void where prohibited.
Ben (and some of you) still shouldn’t switch to Google Fi
I love Google Fi, and have been using it for years in various countries with absolutely no issue. I’ve saved thousands of dollars and endless frustration by having a simple and fair phone plan that just works. Truly, I couldn’t be happier with my setup, and recommend it to nearly everyone.
And if it were just Ben (or even Ben and Ford), I would absolutely say that they should switch as well. The faster international data speeds, extra SIM cards for iPads, and the fact that you’re not paying for anything you’re not using all combine to a significant savings.
Look at their statement from last month:
Versus their guesstimated costs on Fi (I just maxed out the data, as the Fi data situation works a bit differently):
But (and this is a major but) they have all their parents on their phone plan. And as someone with both parents and in-laws — well, let’s just say there is a significant and tangible value to being able to send mom and dad to the friendly neighborhood storefront to get their phone issues resolved.
So while they’d save at least a thousand dollars over the course of a year by switching, I’m not sure the associated hassles would be worth it given the lack of physical support. Of course, if the issue is with the phone itself, and you have an Apple device, you can still go to the genius bar with any technical problems.
Other families may also do better on T-Mobile, depending on your usage patterns and the number of people on the plan. But for individuals or couples who travel frequently, Fi is well worth considering, particularly with the phone deals they’re offering today.
Do you plan on switching to Fi now that they’re supporting more devices?
If you don’t have Google Fi, you can get a $20 Fi credit (in addition to the phone deals below) by using our link, or one in the comments. We receive a credit as well, and appreciate the support! If you have Google Fi already, please feel free to share your referral link in the comments as well!