I am a big fan of Google Fi! I have written about it quite a bit and basically ordered one as soon as they made them available. While it is not for everyone (because of the monthly plan amount), there are great reasons that every traveler should at least consider it!
3 Reasons to Choose Google Fi for Travel
Link: Google Fi
Quick Introduction to Google Fi
Review: Google Fi with iPhone
Google Fi is Google’s answer to providing cell service to their customers. When in the US, it uses the networks of Sprint and T-Mobile (but only if you are using a Google phone – otherwise, it is just T-Mobile). Also in the US, you get unlimited talk and texts and pay just $10 per 1GB used. The base plan, which includes the unlimited talk and text in the US, is $20 per month. You can select to only pay for 1GB of data and you will be refunded for whatever you do not use. If you go over, you will just be charged a portion of the GB that you use.
You can sign up here and we will both get a $20 credit!
When traveling internationally with Google Fi, you will still just pay $10 per GB and fairly low prices for phone calls and even less with a little workaround. 🙂
1. Google Fi Has Cheap International Data
Yes, the other US carriers have plans that can be competitive for some international travelers (like T-Mobile offering free international data to their customers on T-Mobile ONE which starts at $70 for one line and $160 for 4 lines) but if you want a prepaid option that only charges you for what you use, Google Fi is a great alternative. AT&T just launched an option similar to Verizon that gives you the option to pay $10 per day for unlimited talk, text, and data when traveling. If you are only traveling for a few days and need that kind of connectivity (and you are already served by AT&T or Verizon), that is a nice deal.
With Google Fi, you only pay for what you use! If you use 2GB when traveling, you will pay the $20 fee for the data – no matter where you traveling in the world! The price stays the same whether you are in the US or Africa. For me, it is the best way to go since it is a prepaid plan, I don’t have to turn anything on or off and I can just know that the data is there when I need it at a pretty fair price.
2. Google Fi Is Fast Abroad
When Google Fi first came out, the speed was crippled when using other-than-Google devices and traveling internationally. But, they announced several months ago that the speed would be increased and they certainly did that!
I have used Google Fi in a dozen countries and found the same, fast speeds available. Granted, you would likely get better speeds if you are using a local SIM or plan but I have had no problem at all getting along with the fast speeds that Google Fi provides me when traveling internationally (US speeds are just like with regular carriers).
Here are some of the speeds that I have received in various countries:
- Greece – 10 Mbps download | 8 Mbps upload
- Germany – 36 Mbps download | 7 Mbps upload
- UK – 36 Mbps download | 7 Mbps upload
- Sweden – 12 Mbps download | 7 Mbps upload
- Turkey – 10 Mbps download | 6 Mbps upload
Google had announced this speed increase 7 months ago but I did not really start seeing the increased speeds until about 5-6 months ago. Now, it is fast wherever I go and that is a huge increase from the former .20 Mbps downloads of the past!
3. Google Fi Can Be Used With Most Phones
One of the original problems people had with the Google Fi plan was that you had to use a Google Nexus phone to take advantage of it. For me, that was a bummer since I am an iPhone user but I still used the Google phone so I could have the cheap global access.
But, last year, Google rolled out their data-only SIM cards that could be used in a wide range of devices. Now, I only use Google Fi with my iPhone and it works perfectly. The only thing that does not work is using the dialer to make calls like you could with the Google phone but I never use that anyway.
Being able to use an iPhone (if you are an iPhone user) and get the same cheap global data is fantastic! Now, I simply pop my Google Fi SIM card in when I am taking a trip and I am ready to go! It used to take up to 10 minutes for the SIM to register on foreign networks but now it is up and running in less than a minute.
You Have to Have the $20 Base Plan
For some people, this is a deal-breaker. If you are already with a US provider, you probably would not want to switch to Google Fi and use their phones for the full network access (Sprint’s network is only accessible when using Google phones).
But, you could do like I do – each account can have up to 10 data-only SIMs tied to it so I have the base plan for a relative to use and then activate however many data-only SIMs I need and split the cost across them all. If you have a relative that is normally not a big data user, you could let them use the base plan on a Google phone for unlimited minutes and texts (domestically) and then just add a data-only SIM for yourself. $20 a month for unlimited phone access is cheaper than many landline plans so that could be a way to go as well – leave the Google phone at home as a home phone!
Making Cheap Phone Calls from Abroad
Even if you are using the data only SIM with an iPhone, you can still make cheap international phone calls. Simply download the Google Hangouts app and you can make your phone calls through your Google Fi number (using the app) at cheap rates for global use. If you are making calls back to people in the US while abroad, it is free for most of the calls you may make while certain calls may charge 1 cent per minute. This is available in many countries around the world so is a great way to stay in touch on the phone for cheap (this works when you are on WiFi or on the Google Fi network).
Also, since it uses T-Mobile networks, it will treat you like you are actually in the US when you are abroad. Can be quite helpful for Netflix or other location-based services…
Google Fi now lets you add family and friends to the base plan as well for an additional $15 per month. This gives the same unlimited talk and text as the base plan and the data continues to be charged at $10 per GB. But, it is still simple to just get a data only SIM and use that for your phone with Hangouts as your phone device. I have a family member on my plan that does just that with his iPhone and just pays the $10 per GB that he uses and he has phone service!
I love that part – you can stop it at any time and you pay no contract fees at all!
Google Fi has been probably my favorite travel tool of 2016 and already for 2017. It lets me keep a central number while I am able to get cheap international data and phone calls. I love that I can just pop the SIM in my iPhone when I am traveling and then just pay for what I use.
Google Fi has its quirks (see this post about the one city it failed me in) but overall, I would never leave home without it. I think there are a ton of reasons for Google Fi for travelers but hopefully these three will give you some good ideas about what Google Fi can do for you.
Do you use Google Fi abroad? If not, what service works best for you?