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Should You Get Google’s Project Fi Mobile Service?

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I don't like a pay a lot for my cell phone service. Of course no one does. I particularly don't like it because I rarely use it. I could use fewer than 100 minutes as I'm mostly working from home. I use about 1GB of data on average, but I think I could get away with using less.

For these reasons, I love to find the cheapest plan that is going to give fast service and enough data that don't have to fear going over. I also require the service to allow me to bring my own phone because Unlocked Google Nexus 5's are still a great value.

I'm going to keep my Nexus 5 as long as I can. The longer I keep it the less I paid for it when you look at it as a monthly cost. A full HD screen, a top processor, the latest operating system, a great camera, plenty of memory, wireless charging, and NFC... what else more do you need?

Around 18 months ago, I wrote that a Nexus 5 on Straight Talk is the best value around. My wife used to pay $120 for what she got on a $45 Straight Talk plan. We've both been very happy the service.

However, last month I realized that it might make sense to Switch to Cricket Wireless. They use the same AT&T network and a very similar plan (unlimited talk/text, over 2GB of LTE data) is only $35 a month. I went as far to buy a Cricket SIM card so I can give it a shot a next month. It might not seem like much, but Straight Talk adds taxes while Cricket is "all-in" for $35 with auto-refill. That's a savings of around $12 a month... or $144 a year. (Yes, I used my 3rd-grade Trapper Keeper skills, there.) Multiply that by two people (me and my wife) and it's nearly $300 of savings.

A few extra date nights without sacrificing anything? Count me in.

Last week Google introduced itself into the mix with their "Project Fi" service. If you are techie you've heard of it. If not consider this a brief introduction... at least from my understanding after reading a dozen articles on the topic.

Project Fi is Google's attempt to dip their toes into being a mobile carrier. They aren't really a mobile carrier... the service uses Sprint's T-Mobile's networks. They've engineered their Nexus 6 to be able to take a sim card that can work on both networks. You get whichever network is better in your area. So while you might not like either, the combination of the two is probably as reliable as Verizon or AT&T. In addition, if you are in a place with configured wifi, your calls and data are routed through that, making cell coverage irrelevant. Supposedly the switch between carriers and wifi is seamless, but it may be best to wait until you read some reviews of how it works in the real world.

Waiting shouldn't be a problem, because, for now, you need to be invited to get into Project Fi. And you'll also need to have a Nexus 6 (not to be confused with the Nexus 5 mentioned above), which starts at $650... a few hundred more than a Nexus 5. It's a very nice device, but I'm not sure I'm ready to make the leap to a 6-inch phone... especially if costs more money.

If you get over those hurdles, Project Fi really sounds intriguing. Pricing is $20 per month for talk and text. This includes a complex international calling plan that works in 120+ countries (including Aruba)... which can be an extra charge (when over cellular data), but can be free over wifi.

Data seems to be the wildcard nowadays with plans. Google is charging $10 for GB used. If you sign up for 3GB of data (a $50 plan) and use only 800MB, you'll get a $22 credit, essentially paying only the $20 + (0.8GB * $10) or $28.

If you followed my data use at the beginning of the article, I mentioned that I used around 1GB of data a month. That would be an average bill of around $30 a month... not that big of a savings from Cricket's $35. If I use less data with Google, I'll save more money, but if I use more, I could lose money. Cricket includes 2.5GB of data for the $35 price, which would be $45 with Project Fi.

I will keep an eye on Project Fi, but for now, I'm not very motivated by the savings to consider it. The cost of a Nexus 6 is too much. The question of whether calls will transfer well is too much of an unknown.

Give me something like 200 cellular minutes and 200 texts for $10 and data for another $10/GB and you've got me interested. That would bring my average bill down to around $20 each month. However, I would also need the opportunity to switch to unlimited talk/text for the same $20 that they are pitching now.

In short, I'm looking to be rewarded for limited cellular talk/text and using wifi 90% of the time. Some may see this as me looking for something for nothing, but if carriers are operating effectively, 200 minutes of cellular talk/200 texts should cost them a lot less than a GB of data. Paying $20 for unlimited talk/text as a starting point is better than many carriers, but isn't ideal for customers like myself that don't use unlimited talk/text.

In the meantime, I'm not going to complain... pricing has certainly gotten much better over the last few years.

Posted on April 29, 2015.

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6 Responses to “Should You Get Google’s Project Fi Mobile Service?”

  1. Tony says:

    Nice article. Have you ever looked into Republic Wireless? They have plans as cheap as $5 (but you only get cell). I pay $25 a month for 3G, unlimited everything. The only downside is you have to buy a phone from them, the choices being a Moto G or a Moto X. I have a Moto G and it has done me well.

    They also have a program called Republic Labs where they select people to test run features in the works, the upcoming one being a similar reimbursement program for unused data.

    • Lazy Man says:

      I have looked into Republic Wireless. I really like LTE data (one of the most important aspects to me) and the pricing with that is close Cricket’s. And there’s that buying a specialized phone thing as well… but at least the Moto family has some good options.

  2. Tony says:

    Ah, makes sense then. I guess it wouldn’t be the ideal option in that case.

  3. Andy says:

    It’s not that this will save me any money (att family share 5 phones 30gb @ $200 month), it’s the fact that I can just leave the existing monopolies. I’ll start with one number, select the 2gb plan and go from there. Eventually, as more phones are available and some kind of family setup is available is when I’ll see the discount, or should I say freedom. I’ll pay the $650 for the nexus 6, sell my nexus 5 at a discount, and just move forward.

  4. brian says:

    Great blog!

    I’ve had the Nexus 5 for over a year now and It’ my favorite phone of all time so far
    Coming from iphones, that’s saying a lot. As a gift, I’ve used it more than the iphone 5s.
    The Nexus 5 was a gift to test out Android apps. It’s really great just as a small tablet too.

    Android has changed in the last few years and the app selection is awesome.

    Don’t be afraid to root the phone for extra functionality.. Such as using the phone as a WiFi device for a laptop.

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