Google Fi on iPhone
tldr: A few months after arriving in California, I want to take advantage of Google-Fi virtual network with my iPhone X.
Here is my feedback.. Let's go!
Just arriving in the USA, I did not have a Social Security Number (SSN, the number that identify you within the US), and any Credit Score (rating that says that I pay my invoices without any delay) so I had to take a pre-paid package. AT&T was not very popular with my colleagues, especially due to the price of their unlimited packages, so I went on T-Mobile.
T-Mobile offers me to open a prepaid account for $85 (with taxes) with 50Gb of 4G LTE with local calls ( in north america) only. If I want to call abroad, I must add $15 per month, and if I want to use an iPad, it takes another $20. Mainly using Whatsapp or FaceTime to communicate, I finally chose the basic package without any specific option for my first month.
After getting my brand new SSN, I changed to a "post-paid" contract for $70 a month with taxes for the same services. They never succeeded to migrate my account properly, so I never get my online account access to control my options, despite 2 hours with customer service and a lot of commercial bullshit: Our teams are working on your problem, including our best experts, it will be resolved in 48h.
Despite that, the coverage was pretty good and I had no particular problem in the Bay area. Only national parks have no reception (white areas) regardless of the network.
Mainly connecting to WiFi at home, in the office and during transport, I finally use relatively little amount of 4G data: between 2 and 5Gb per month. This month, I used the following services (on the iPhone, go to Settings -> Mobile Data):
- LinkedIn: 1 Gb
- Hotspot: 500 Mb
- Safari: 500 Mb
- Spotify: 500 Mb
- App Store: 500 Mb
- Maps: 300 Mb
- Tweetbot: 300 Mb
- Youtube: 300 Mb
- The rest is less than 100Mb.
LinkedIn uses way to much data! I don't use this app very often, so I will prevent LinkedIn from using mobile data (Uncheck in Settings -> Mobile Data). App Store usage is strange too, knowing that I did not enabled application updates on cellular network.
The economic specificity of Google-Fi is to offer a protected service: Pay $20 per month for a line, and $10 per Gb up to 6Gb (and this in 170+ countries). After 6Gb, it's on them. So with protection, you're sure to never pay more than $80 a month, regardless of how it's used.
Note that we pay by Mb. So if I use 0.853 Gb, I will be charged for $28.53, not $30.
You can order several lines ($15 per additional line), as well as free data only SIM cards to put for example in an iPad (or in your kids phones). Those cards share the same data plan.
To know everything about Google-Fi, it's best to read the FAQ.
Officially, only few Android devices are compatible with Google-Fi: Pixels 2 and 3, two Motorola and two LG. You can use other phones (including iPhones), but you need to activate the SIM card before on a compatible phone and accept few limitations. The steps that follow are not guaranteed and it can stop working at any time. But as the Google-Fi plan does not require any commitment, you cant switch back to T-Mobile (or any other) in case of glitch!
What I do not have compared to classic Google-Fi users
First, only compatible phones offer in principle multi-band: the ability to change depending on the quality of the network, between T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular. On iPhone, it is blocked on T-Mobile, but as it is the best network of those three, it does not change anything compared to my previous subscription.
I have not been able to receive any MMS from an Android device, despite the settings recommended on this page. However, I receive SMS (with weird text behind) and I can send some too. But as I mainly use Whatsapp or iMessages (between iPhones) and I never use MMS, it does not bother me at all. Fun-fact, I can still send an animoji or an image on Android devices by MMS.
I also cannot use the automatic Google VPN to protect my data when connecting to public wifi networks. But it was already the case with T-Mobile and I have my own VPN network.
Some blogs mention that connection sharing does not work, but it's working for me without any particular setup (tests using a macbook connected to the iphone by wifi).
What do I get for moving from T-Mobile to Google-Fi ?
- A simple and functional online management interface
- Real customer service that does not send me spam (called special offers, surveys, etc) every week.
- A bill that can go down to $20 if I don't use my phone and will not exceed $80 in case of heavy use
- The ability to call international numbers and use then plan from abroad without subscribing additional options
- Possibility to share my data plan for free with my iPad (and 9 other devices) with a data only SIM card
- A chat support that works really well (did not tried other options)
As with the arrival of Free Mobile in France, I'm happy to encourage an alternative phone operator who shakes up the Telco cartel by offering well suited services, well adapted for today's market. But most important, I want to have the freedom to use my smartphone at a reasonable (USA reference) cost and pay nothing if I do not use it.
If you also want to join Google-Fi, you can earn $20 extra (and me too) on your first bill using my referral number: 74H80F in the last step of your registration process.
After moving to Google-Fi, I find the network very responsive on iPhoneX with pages that load much faster than on T-Mobile. Maybe it could be related to a better DNS resolution ? Despite from the small limitation with MMS, everything else works perfectly! So, it's decided, I stay on Fi!
How to switch
Ten days before the end of my T-Mobile contract (look for "Bill Period" on the invoice), I ordered on Google Fi's website a SIM card with number transfer (I want to keep my phone number). It seems also possible to bring your number later, but I didn't test this option.
The card takes about 3 to 5 days to arrive to your mailbox. During this time, I entered the information from my T-Mobile contract on Google site that will allow them to transfer my number and automatically close my T-Mobile account.
To activate the SIM card, simply put the card in a Google Fi compatible phone. I used a colleague's Pixel 2, but you can also consider ordering a compatible phone from Amazon and send it back once the card is activated.
On this phone:
- Select the Project Fi app and launch it
- Accept updates if requested
- Register your Google Account when it asks for it
- Check that the proposed phone number is the correct one and that the T-Mobile contract information is valid
- Continue to the last screen that mentions that everything is fine
- Remove Google account from the phone
- Factory reset the phone if you plan to send it back
About 15 minutes later, the T-Mobile card loses the network. You can now insert the Google-Fi card into your iPhone and it will be recognized right away.
In the options, I only added a PIN code to protect my card and activated the roaming.
This article was previously written by me in french