I Tried Google Fi International (and Had Mixed Feelings)

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I’m always looking for the next big thing and I thought Google Fi international might be it.  Google’s new cell phone service, Google Fi (formerly Project Fi), offers free high-speed data and texting in more than 170 countries worldwide — and with WiFi calling, you can even make phone calls abroad (with your normal phone number) at no extra charge.

I already had international data and texting with T-Mobile, but I wanted something better because T-Mobile is patchy where I live.  Since Google Fi offers service through T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular combined (plus Wi-Fi based calls), I assumed my coverage would get better.

Two other advantages were a lower monthly bill for the same amount of data and faster international speeds (4G with Google Fi vs 2G with T-Mobile).

The Basics of Google Fi International

Project Fi keeps prices low because the phone defaults to using Wi-Fi whenever there’s a strong enough connection.

If you’ve ever chatted on FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype, or other apps, you know that Wi-Fi calls can be high quality.  When that’s not available, Google claims to seamlessly transfer you over to either T-Mobile or Sprint towers…even if you’re in the middle of a call.  

Data and texting work much the same way, with Wi-Fi being the default coverage.

Plans start at $20/month for unlimited talk and text and then you pay $10 per 1 GB of data thereafter.  So, if you typically use 3GB of data, plan on spending a total of $50/month.

Google Calls it “Bill Protection”.  I call it unlimited talk, text, and data.

Google Fi advertises data at $10/GB with price protection after 6GB.  That’s a fancy way of saying even if you go over 6GB of data, they’ll only charge you $60 in data fees that month.

Think of it as unlimited talk in the USA, plus unlimited texting and data for a total of $80 per month.

BONUS: If you use less data than you signed up for, they’ll actually refund you on data usage (if you use more, they’ll charge you accordingly at the same rate without changing your plan). 

This is the only cell phone company I know of where your monthly bill can be less than you expected if you’re a light user that month.

google project fi rates
An Example of Project Fi International Rates: always $10 per 1GB/data (no unlimited data plan options)

NEW: Activate service using my link and get a $20 Google credit after you keep Project Fi service for at least 30 days.

Google Fi Phones

Originally, only a very small subset of phones were compatible with Google Fi service, so most customers  had to buy a new phone.  As of November 2018, most current phones will work on Google Fi, include the Google Pixel, iPhone 5 or newer, and many Samsung or Motorola phones.  You can confirm compatibility here.

For reference, I use the Pixel 2 and love it — both for strong international coverage and an incredible camera perfect for travelers who don’t want to carry a separate device.

Using the Pixel 2 phone for Project Fi International

Project Fi International for Travelers

Google Fi currently includes international data and texting in 170 countries, which is perfect for travelers.  I’ve come to rely on apps like Google Maps to get me around, not to mention on-the-go email service to stay on top of work while I’m away.  

Data speeds are typically LTE at home, but are more often 4G when traveling abroad. Don’t expect the absolute fastest speeds except in a handful of major international cities.

Being able to make and receive FREE calls when on Wi-Fi is a huge bonus. When you’re roaming internationally without wi-fi, calls to/from the United States are $0.20/minute — reasonable for emergencies, but can add up for “just catching up”.

project fi international cell phone plans

My Google Fi Review: Service Abroad

Google Fi coverage abroad is amazing.  It’s fast enough for almost everything with 4G speeds (certainly enough to upload some Facebook photos, use Google maps, and check emails).  It’s very reliable and easy to use.

I use it frequently on trips to Canada, but have also tested it in several European countries, Mexico, Barbados, and even China where internet service is a complicated manner.

Google Fi is better than buying local sim cards in each country when you land.  With Fi, you always have a US-based phone number which makes it very easy for family and friends to reach you even when you’re traveling.  Before Fi, I was always emailing my mother with temporary phone numbers and instructions on how to reach me with Vietnamese country codes, etc.  I was always worried that if there was an emergency at home, I’d never get the message!

Google Fi International Calls

Google Fi wifi calling is FREE which is a huge advantage.  There’s no need to download a separate app — or convince others to do so — and it means you can call landlines anywhere in the world.

Project fi call rates, when using cell service instead of the internet, are 20 cents a minute.  Although that adds up, it’s great for quick calls like requesting a hotel shuttle when your flight lands or making a restaurant reservation.

The Negatives in my Google Fi Review

When I first joined Google Fi, I had very spotty service at home.  Even though they claim to use T-Mobile and Sprint towers, I found a lot of dead spots at home — ironically, more so than when I had T-Mobile alone.  I don’t have a good explanation for that, only that I didn’t think my U.S. based coverage could get worse until it actually did.  Wi-Fi calls weren’t any better and often came with static.

The good news is that Google Fi has improved a lot in service quality and this seems to be less of an issue with each passing month.  That said, I’ve definitely noticed way better call quality on my Google Pixel 2 than on a non-Google phone.  If you’re buying a new phone anyway, this would make me lean toward choosing a Pixel (which are great phones anyway!).

I don’t think Project Fi is perfect in rural areas, but it’s spot on in major cities in the USA and everywhere I’ve been abroad.

The Silver Lining

Google Fi offers refunds on your phone when returned within 15 days, so there’s little risk if it doesn’t work for you.  Switching from T-Mobile at the beginning of my service was simple and cancelling my second Google Fi line was easy too (I still have one number with them).  I have nothing but good things to say about Google Project Fi’s customer service.

google project fi

Google Fi International Makes a Great Secondary Line

If you love the idea of free Google Fi international coverage but are locked into a contract (or only get service from one company in your region), you can still get Google Fi as a second line.

Although it’s not advertised, Fi allows you to pause service at any time.  So, sign up for a plan and activate service for the week or two you’re abroad and then pause it when you get back home.  You’re only charged for the days you use it.  This can make it way cheaper than paying international rates with other mobile carriers.

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Try Google Fi and get a $20 Google credit after you keep Project Fi service for at least 30 days.

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52 thoughts on “I Tried Google Fi International (and Had Mixed Feelings)”

  1. My husband’s phone is with T-Mobile, and that’s what we use when abroad. Mine is Verizon, so I end up being phoneless and “borrowing” his phone to keep up with blogging and social media when abroad. Verizon is too expensive for overseas use!

    1. @Katrina Elisabet, I wish Verizon had a reasonable international option! I don’t mind paying a small surcharge, but I can’t go broke either!

  2. Until 3 years ago, I traveled sans connected devices. Then I got my Samsung WiFi only tablet that I used for email and web, and the occasional need for Twitter. I was considering T-Mobile but the coverage in NYC’s northern suburbs is not good. Since I am a Sprint customer, I am about to try out Sprint Global Roaming on an upcoming trip to Italy. I recently upgraded to a Note5, and according to Sprint, with Global Roaming the only charge is $.20 minute for voice calling. Data (2G) and texting are free. We shall see how this works out.

  3. I chose Tmobile specifically for its travel/international options – I travel abroad and domestically every months and needed something convenient. Now with all the in-flight options as well (gogo, free messaging) its even better and seamless to keep working. The downside is that we are moving for my wife’s job (I work from home so it doesn’t matter where I park), and we have to plan around Tmobile’s spotty coverage in Wisconsin. Friends and family ask “why not just switch providers instead of making your home search so difficult”.. its not that easy – I have yet to find another cell provider that is so pro-traveler. My poor realtor has to check the Tmobile map every time she sees a potential house for us. Haha.

    1. @Andrew, Thanks for chiming in. I ended up with 2 cell phone plans after awhile — one for home and one for travel. It’s still cheaper than just adding on international service to one carrier…Crazy!

  4. Hello, thank you for telling us about your experience. I’d like to know, if I buy a Nexus 5X with Project Fi, I know I can pay $199 outright. But if the network issues get too bad, can I just opt out of Project Fi, and slip a T-Mobile sim card in and use that instead? Is it truly an unlocked phone that you just get with a Project Fi sim card?

    1. @Raul, I believe Google requires a minimum time commitment or else reserves the right to charge you full retail value for the phone (1-3 months?). But yes — it is fully unlocked.

  5. Thanks for the review. I was thinking of switching, and the 2 week time period where I can cancel is great to know. I’m on T-Mobile now abroad , so I’ll let you know how it goes if I make the move.

  6. So did you do any troubleshooting??? Could it have been the phone? I don’t know if I would cancel my service after 2 weeks without calling support or see about a replacement phone.

      1. unfortunately it does not… first time using Fi in India (Bangalore) and service was poor to non existent. It supposedly was connected to Vodaphone but was so slow it was like watching paint dry. I tried both LTE and HSPA+ with no luck. In contrast i’ve used an Airtel SIM in the past here without issues.

  7. I started with Project Fi in late June. First smart phone. I have been using a Verizon based Straight talk phone since 2010 and Verizon blankets my city while the last time I had a T-Mobile phone it was terrible. But that was 8-10 years ago. I will say that inside, my signal is not a strong as my Verizon phone, but it has never tried to go to WiFi for calls, which I kinda want to try. (Haven’t dropped any calls now does it sound bad..but there are less bars than I had.) I was a little surprised that I didn’t have better coverage since there is a Metro PCS store literally a half block away from me so I figured they would have a T-Mobile tower nearby to trick customers into thinking the whole city was that strong for T-Mobile

    But considering I use my phone mostly as a phone and have no desire for my phone to be constantly updating traffic, sports scores, weather, etc. when I am inside and won’t be driving, or encountering weather for hours, I literally turn cell data off except when I actually want it. As a result, I am paying less than $24 a month since I am almost always in WiFi range. Can’t complain with that.

  8. I had not heard of Project Fi yet, certainly is an interesting concept. Makes sense to have something available that you can access a data connection in some way, having WiFi is important for us who need to get work done while traveling or contact loved ones!

    1. @Mel, It’s a must-have for me to stay on top of emails even when I’m on the road and not close to Wi-Fi. But, it’s a little patchy sometimes.

  9. I really appreciate the honest review. Although staying in touch with loved ones abroad is important to me, I can not sacrifice the quality of my daily device usage.

  10. This is great info to know. I haven’t heard of Project Fi before. For us, connectivity is super important, so it would irritate me if our calls kept dropping or were full of static. Thanks for sharing this review!

  11. I use Straight Talk with BYOP. The plan is $45 and with that I receive 8GB of LTE data on top of unlimited talk and text.

    To match this plan on Goolge Fi, I would pay $100 a month [$20 (Fi) + $80 (8GB) ].. Even If I don’t use all 8GB, I would need to use 2.5GB in order to match the Straight Talk plan… That just isn’t reasonable.

    Sorry Google, this is one time I will pick the competitor over you.

    1. @Joseph, Definitely depends on how much data you use. I use ~2GB/monthly and my husband is about 1GB so Google Fi is a decent overall price. I also travel internationally a lot so it saves the hassle and cost of buying sim cards everywhere I go.

      …but since it didn’t work for me at home, very much a moot point 🙂

      1. Just use it as a International SIM and reactivate as needed. Google Fi is a lifesaver for me, especially when jumping around countries. There’s nothing like your plane landing and you already have 4G internet in almost every country you go to.

  12. Hi Becky,
    In what countries have u used this service?
    I travel internationally about 5 times a year & been wanting to try the Fi, but just couldn’t commit to having to buy their phone.
    I usually spend only about $250 for a mid-tier smart phone plus $40/mo on Cricket wireless.
    I’ve been purchasing local SIM cards everywhere I go for the past 3 years but now getting a little tired of that strategy.
    How does your 2 phone strategy work as far as using Fi for travels only? Do u have two phone numbers? One for local use & 1 for when u travel?

    1. @Rico, Off the top of my head, I’ve used Fi in Mexico, Hong Kong, South Korea, Spain, Poland, Sweden, and Germany, probably a few others I can’t think of immediately.

      I do have two separate phone numbers – one for my primary service at home, and one for Fi.

      1. Richard Castleberry

        Becky, Do you have both your numbers working with your Project Fi phone?

        By the way, which model phone are you using?

        Have you tried inserting one of Google’s ‘data only SIM cards’ in

        another of your devices?

      2. @Richard, I use a Pixel 2 phone. When I’m at home (USA), I use a Straight Talk sim card with my primary phone number.
        When I travel abroad, I switch it out for a Project Fi sim card with a secondary phone number.

        I’ve never tried the data only SIM cards, to be honest I haven’t really ever needed to.

  13. David-in-Florida

    Works great for international. Project FI had me online in both Seoul and Singapore in just a couple of minutes. Next I will try Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. I brought an iPhone 6s with me in addition to a Pixel 2. I use the Pixel 2 for Project FI and the iPhone 6s for a local sim. Local sim data is much less Han US $10.

  14. Google Fi is tempermental Internationally. The coverage it provides depends on if you are using the main sim or data sim. Thus one needs to phone to theter which is so annoying (one with a data sim and another with the main sim).

  15. I’m visiting Poland right now and using Fi international for the first time. I’m in Krakow. I am very happy with it so far!

    1. Service is great everywhere. Getting solid 4g speeds.
    2. On mobile, data calls are 20c/min locally.. but if you call the US they’re only 1c/min!
    3. All calls are free if you are on WiFi. Which is very easy cause like every bus stop has its own free WiFi connection lol.
    4. Don’t have to change a sim or the way I use my phone at all. Still can txt everyone as normal. (I use Hangouts though) I don’t know how this would behave on a different messager

  16. This seems like exactly what I’m looking for, as I have a Pixel 2 and will be spending extended periods of time abroad next year.

    Becky, I would hope to do something like your suggestion of using Fi as a second line and pausing it when back in the U.S. to go back to my Verizon coverage. I have a somewhat remedial question – when I am abroad and using Fi, does that essentially block out my Verizon coverage, such that any text messages sent to my Verizon number would not go through?

    1. @Matthew, I’m assuming you’ll have a continuous Verizon contract (even if you’re not accessing it while abroad) which just means that you’ll get any text messages or voicemails when you return home and turn your Verizon sim card back on. You’d only miss the text messages if you stopped payment on Verizon in the meantime.

  17. Been doing a lot of research on this Google Fi service since I just recently paid off my phone with Verizon. I live outside of the US over half of the year now and this is the most brilliant service I’ve heard for seamless international usage and for when I return back home as well. No more contracts with gaudy international fees. And since your blog was the final point for my convincing, I used your referral link. Thanks a bunch for writing helpful, experiential blogs such as this.

    Warm regards!

  18. Im using Fi on an iphone X in costa Rica and it is FANTASTIC. LTE speeds alot, but when traveling using edge to 3 G while on the road-if you download google maps offline for the area u r traveling to, it’s pretty reliable. WiFi calling is great.

  19. I’ve been using Fi for several years, first with a Nexus 5, now with a Pixel 2. I work internationally, so it’s a HUGE savings, both here and abroad! Have used it in India, Indonesia (3 different islands, get 5 bars out in the middle of Sumatra!), Singapore, S. Korea, Japan, Bangkok, Myanmar, Uganda, Qatar, Dubai, Jordan, France, Germany, Belgium. (Note – there is no coverage in China, including Hong Kong.) The only places I had any trouble was early on in India, but now it works great.

    For those who want to have Fi for a second phone and pause it between travel, be aware that now you can only pause for 3 months at a time. If you only travel 2-3x a year, you may have to pay for a month or two that you’re not using it on occasion.

  20. Google fi DOES NOT WORK IN THAILAND for calls AND they have blocked the ability to make wifi calls (completely on my samsung s8) AND hangouts will not work in Thailand (the only work around is to pay for a vpn and use hangouts).
    After over 100 hours over the last month with fi (calls, wait times, chat, etc) there is NO explanation of why I can’t use the phone as a phone BUT the data does work? Too bad I can’t just pay for data and not pay the $20/mo for the voice part that doesn’t work where I spend most of my time out of the country

      1. It is a covered country. The issue is that their phone is defective and they won’t replace it bc we are outside of the US which means the warranty no longer covers it.

  21. We’ve had a TERRIBLE experience with Google Fi. We’re digital nomads and we bought two Moto X4s and signed up when were in the States for the holidays. (We’re digital nomads, so are out of the country most of the year.) My husband had problems right away and worked with Google to fix. We left the States before the problem was solved, but Google assured us they would fix it. Fast forward a month, we’re in Thailand, and Google Fi says the phone is defective and they won’t replace it since were not in the country. I’ve never been so furious at a company or felt more lied to about their plan. What kind of company touts a plan perfect for people who are travelling then says they won’t replace the phone if you’re traveling? A really &#!@%^ company is what kind.

    1. @Michael, Sorry to hear of your difficulties. Will Fi let you return the broken phone for a refund (and then you use the money to buy a new one?). Might be easier than having them ship a phone internationally. Or alternatively, maybe you can have a replacement sent to a friend in the USA who ships it onward to you?

  22. I was in Nice,France in March 2018 with a Moto x4. Google Fi data roaming never worked. I spent many hours trying to tweek it as well as chatting with Google Fi and even telephoning them. They could not help. It was a huge frustration. Nice is a major international tourist city, so I’m not sure how Google Fi can get away with it, unless the problem is that I have a Moto x4, which I bought, by the way, from Google Fi.

    The price of moto x4 dropped $150 (from $400) 2-3 months after it came out. Now you can get it for $150 flat off the Google Fi site, if that says anything.

    Not a good sign.

    1. @Denny, So sorry to hear of your tech troubles. I’ve never used the Moto X4 specifically, but usually I would expect anything sold directly through Google to obviously work with their service 🙁

      1. Thanks, Becky.

        I was on the point of getting another smartphone, again via Google Fi, an LG, but then I thought to myself, after reading reviews online, that there really wasn’t that much difference, as far I could tell, between the Moto x4 and the LG. But I will be greatly inconvenienced if the data roaming and/or phone stop working in April when I am abroad for half a month. I don’t think it will be practical once over to then try to buy a new smartphone from Google Fi.

  23. I live in the Caribbean and switched from Sprint to Google Fi when I was in the States for a visit. I was led to believe that wifi calls were going to be free, I would pay for data per GB, and be charged for the family plan. First I was charged .20/min for calls from the U.S. on wifi and customer service told me that I was using data instead of wifi. How is that possible if the phone is on airplane mode, and there is NO DATA on the island where I live?
    They credited the charges and told me that they would “flag” my account to make sure that it wouldn’t happen again.
    Lo and behold, my husband was on a conference call for over an hour and we were charged $15 for the call. I contacted customer service again, why am I getting charged for calls from the U.S.? No explanation, my concerns would be escalated and someone would email me the next day. I’ve waited over a week now to be contacted.

    I am currently on St. Thomas, which is a U.S. territory with a Sprint store (so you would imagine there are Sprint towers). However, I’m still being charged for calls to the U.S.

    I’ve had enough, and it’s barely been two months. I tried canceling my service with Google Fi, and porting my number back to Sprint, but for some unknown reason they are getting an error that Google won’t release the phone. Speaking of, you have to purchase a phone when you get Google Fi service, yet if it is past the 15 days they won’t take the phone back. I spent 2 hours trying to get Google to release my phone number back to Sprint.
    Total B.S!!

    1. @Samantha, I’m sorry to hear of your troubles. I’m not sure why your wi-fi calls are being flagged as using data, but that is obviously a big headache to deal with. Hopefully you can use your Google phone with Sprint service once you switch.

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