Staying Connected

Google Cell Phone Service: Great Option for Travelers

project fiGoogle launched a new cell phone service in April, called Project Fi. I’m optimistic that this will be a good addition to the rather lousy cell options in the U.S., especially for travelers. Fi offers a relatively low price, automatic switching between cellular and wifi networks to optimize performance and minimize cellular data use, free international texting and data, and low cost international calls.

Competing with T-mobile’s international product, Project Fi is probably cheaper for most people ($20/month +$10 per gig of data used, with money back for any data not spent each month), and it offers faster data service when roaming (3G). Within the U.S. this new phone service should have pretty good cellular coverage because they are using both Sprint and T-Mobile’s networks.

In related news, Sprint announced an International Value Roaming plan in April, which, for no additional cost to users, which allows unlimited international data and text. If you are a Sprint member, be sure to enable this feature before you travel! Far less useful than the T-Mobile international service (which does cost extra for some T-Mobile plans), or the new Project Fi international coverage, this Sprint service is only available in a handful of countries (15 right now). Like T-Mobile, the speed is limited to 2G. But if you’re already a Sprint user it’s at least something free.

Currently Project Fi is only available on the Nexus 6 phone. But hopefully more new phones will build in the necessary hardware to support the Fi SIM card. Even if you have this phone you need to request an invite to the Project Fi Early Access Program if you want to sign up now.

I don’t have a Nexus 6 so I won’t be an early adopter. I’m still pretty happy with T-mobile’s international plan, even if I’m sometimes frustrated by the 2G data roaming. I look forward to the competition resulting in faster international data in the future.