Go ahead, name some big companies offering cellular service. AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint probably came to mind. Now, you can add Google to that list.
Google recently announced that Fi SIM cards would be available for purchase in more than 500 Best Buy stores across the country.
It appears that Google Fi is finally ready for mainstream use, and nearly anyone can jump on board.
From the get-go, Fi is a compelling service that focuses on price. By the way, if you haven’t shopped your current plan for discounts, tap or click here for the best low-cost cellular plans offered by the major carriers.
So what is Fi? How does it work, and how is it different from any traditional phone service? Before you try this dark-horse carrier, here’s a brief rundown of its benefits and drawbacks.
While we’re on the subject, you may be curious how to switch your cellphone carrier, period.
Here's what you need to know about Google Fi
Some phones are specifically designed to work with Google Fi, such as Google’s Pixel. Other phones are compatible with Google Fi, although most aren’t. You'll get more features with Fi phones, including what Google calls "intelligent" switching between three LTE networks and Wi-Fi hotspots.
You can check to see if Fi services your neighborhood. You just type in your address on the Fi site - fi.google.com - it'll show you if you're covered and whether you're using a Fi phone or a compatible model.
The Fi site maintains a directory of compatible phones, including Pixel and models by other manufacturers. You'll notice that some phones are still in the beta stage, notably iPhones.
You might save money with Google Fi
Fi's mission is simple. You can order a SIM card on the Fi site for free or buy one for $10 at Best Buy. Then, you choose your plan: It's $20 a month for unlimited phone calls and texts and $15 for each additional phone line.
For every GB of data you use, you spend $10 per month. Google will not charge you if you go over 6 GB a month, but it will slow down your data when you go over 15 GB. The idea is to prevent you from spending more than your budget.
If you travel overseas, you’ll love Fi. You pay the same price for data if you're connecting in more than 200 countries. You also have free, unlimited texting. Phone calls in other countries are served by Fi at $0.20 a minute when you're not connected to Wi-Fi.
How to switch to Fi
Converting to Fi can be handled almost entirely on its website. Once you visit the site, you’ll find the Join button. You'll be prompted to choose your phone, whether you’re using your current phone or buying a new model that's specifically designed for Fi.
To ensure that your phone is compatible, you’ll be prompted to type in your phone’s brand, model and service provider. Or you can select the Fi phone you'd like to buy.
After you've picked your phone, you'll have to select a plan. It's $20 for calls and texts, and then you choose your data plan.
You'll need to contact your current carrier to disconnect your service, once the switch to Google Fi has been confirmed.
Should you switch to Fi?
To Fi, or not to Fi? If your phone is compatible with Google Fi's network and the plans look like a deal, and you’re the type who likes to be an early adopter, then the switch makes sense. If you’re like me, and you’d prefer to wait and see how it wholesale performs, I’m staying where I am for now.
That said, Fi does require you to jump through some hoops. You'll have to switch your own SIM card, and you may have to untangle yourself from your current carrier and unlock your "big-four" phone. If you don't use a lot of cellular data and are willing to experiment with new technology, Fi may be a prudent choice.
One final thought: Most of us turn to Google for email, entertainment and virtual workflow. Entire corporations have handed Google troves of personal data and document storage. Many of us will think twice about using Google as our cell carrier as well.
If you are trying to cut ties with Google, tap or click here for 7 ways to search the web without using Google.
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