Step-by-Step Guide How to Use Your iPhone with Google Fi
The Basics

How to Use Your iPhone with Google Fi

use iPhone with Google Fi
Written by Charlie

Do you want to jump on the bandwagon of cheap international data with Google Fi but you don’t want a Google phone? Find out how you can use your iPhone with Google Fi to get those low data rates in over 170 countries around the world!

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Google Fi is one of my favorite tools for travelers – it not only keeps things simple but it can keep your data costs low as you travel around the world.

The problem for some people is that they have not wanted to switch to a Google Fi-enabled phone to get access to this cheap international data. Even though the ability to use an iPhone (or other phone) with Google Fi has been around for a while, I still see a lot of people say they want to use Google Fi but they only have an iPhone. So, here is how you can have both!

How to Use Your iPhone with Google Fi

Link: Google Fi

What Is Google Fi (or Google Project Fi)?

benefit of Google Fi

Google Fi is Google’s effort at providing low cost cellular service for people by piggybacking on to other networks. In the US, they use Sprint and T-Mobile (if you are using a Google Pixel phone) or just T-Mobile (if you are using the data-only SIM as we will look at in this post). Abroad, they work with a host of international networks to provide you with your service on the go.

To get Google Fi, you need to sign-up with a Google account. It costs a flat $20 per month for unlimited talk and text in the US (while you are in the US) and $10 per 1GB of data. Outside of the US, you pay $.20 per minute for calls and you get free text messages and data is still just $10 per 1GB.

Recently, Google has capped the amount you will pay for data per month. You can read more about that and what the caps are in this post.

Using Your iPhone with Google Fi

While the greatest benefits of the Google Fi program are reserved for those customers that actually use Google Fi-equipped phones (like the current Google Pixel 2 or Google Pixel 2 XL) – like data tethering, free text messages internationally, use of Sprint’s network domestically – it is still possible to get the great benefits of cheap international data on the iPhone. Here is how to get setup.

Getting Started with Google Fi

First of all, you need to have a Google Fi account. The base price of $20 per month will always be charged even though you are using an iPhone and the data charge of $10 per 1GB will be there based on your usage. However, you can suspend your Google Fi account’s service whenever you want.

One more thing – to have a Google Fi account, you will need to have it tied to a Google Fi-equipped phone. It doesn’t matter which edition it is. Some, like the original Google Nexus for Fi, can be found for under $60 on eBay. You may find it for less if you don’t care about the condition.

Orfind a friend who has a Google Fi account and skip ahead to the next part.

Ordering A Google Fi Data SIM

Once you have opened an account, follow the instructions below:

  1. Open the project fi website.
  2. In the Account tab, go to Your Plan.
  3. Select Add data-only SIM.
  4. Follow the instructions to order your SIM.

It will default to 3-5 business day shipping. That is free but if you want it in 2 business days, you will need to pay $11.99 for the shipping and 1 business day will kick that up to $15.99.

You can have up to 10 data-only SIM cards to a single account! So, you could share with friends and family if you wanted to split the base price of $20 for the plan and you are all just using data-only SIM cards.

Installing The Google Fi Data SIM

Installing it is just like installing any other SIM card in your phone. Locate the SIM slot (some phones may have the slot underneath the battery cover) and use the included SIM slot pin to pop out the SIM carriage. Now, simply place the Google Fi data SIM in the place of your other one.

Google Fi Data SIM

Before you can use it, you will need to activate it using the activation code on the SIM envelope. It will give you the simple instructions and ask what kind of device you plan on using it in.

IMPORTANT STEP!

Since I selected the iPhone, it told me to go into the Cellular menu and change my APN to h2g2 (it changes back automatically to your regular service when you put your regular SIM back in). Once I did that – ready to go.

Time for these steps – 2 minutes.

Using My iPhone With The Google Fi Data SIM

After following those steps, you now have data access in over 170 countries around the world for just $10 per 1GB! And, it works at pretty good speeds as well! Google has been great about increasing the speed of international data for Google Fi and it will certainly help you in anything data-related you do around the world.

Making Phone Calls and Sending Texts with Your iPhone on Google Fi

Since this is the data-only SIM, you will not be able to use regular text messaging or phone calls with your iPhone’s native app (there is a workaround that I will write a separate post on later this week!).

However, you can use iMessage and Google Hangouts for regular texts and phone calls. This worked exceptionally well for me. I also have an online service that I use for phone calls from Europe and it gives an app with my regular number so I just used that most of the time for phone calls.

If you use Google Hangouts for phone calls, it will cost you nothing (but the data usage) to make phone calls to the US. To make calls to other countries, it can be something very low (like 1 cent per minute for many landlines) using Google Hangouts for the phone calls.

You can also use Google Hangouts (and the associated Google number for your Hangouts) for text messages on your iPhone when you are communicating for non-iOS users. I have used this for years and it works very well!

If you are traveling outside the US and want to use Google Fi on your iPhone, you can simply forward your mobile phone calls to your Google Hangouts number and you can still be reached while out and about!

Data Speeds

use iPhone with Google F

Data speeds in Greece on my iPhone with Google Fi

While they used to cap international data speeds to 2G speeds, Google Fi has now increased their speeds tremendously and you can easily do whatever you need with their data plans around the world. Some countries may have faster access speeds than others (I have easily exceeded 30Mbps in Germany) but I have not dropped below 6Mbps in any country as of late.

Tracking Data Usage

use iPhone with Google Fi

Data usage with Google Fi

Google has it setup very nicely in your account dashboard online to see how much data each device is using. This way, if you wanted to let family members/friends jump in with you, you can know how much each person will owe you. And it is simple to figure – 1GB is still just $10 or any portion thereof. If you pick a high data amount and don’t use it all, don’t worry as you will get refunded the money you did not use. The same is true if you go over the 1GB – it will charge you in proportion to the amount of data you used.

Plus, do not forget that they have a cap on data charges of $60 for one lineThat means that if you have a single line and 10 iPhones with data only SIMS, your cap is still just $60 for the data used on all those phones (with the speeds being throttled after 15GB in a month).

While this has worked well for me all over the world, there has been one city that I had a problem with it (Rome). Other than that, I absolutely love Google Fi and love that I can use it on my iPhone wherever I go for the set amount of $10 per 1GB.

Featured image from Apple.com

Editorial Note - Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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About the author

Charlie

Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.

28 Comments

    • Yep, it does. Personally, I have an iPhone 6S that I used for the full two years of the contract with AT&T then had it unlocked as soon as it was paid off. Now I use it exclusively as both my personal and work mobile phone with a voice-and-data SIM. The downside of this is – while Google and Apple figure out how not to be dicks to each other – you have to buy outdated phones people have turned in, or plan on paying full price for a new, unlocked iPhone. I’m currently in the market for an iPhone 7 or 8, but still can’t bring myself to pay upwards of $500, minimum for an “older” phone, or more for a brand new 8. But my 6S still works fairly well, and I enjoy being able to use the same phone for both voice and data (no tethering, though – I have an old Nexus for that) anywhere in the world I’d ever want to go. So if you’re okay with having slightly older hardware, it’s great.

  • You forgot to mention that you *absolutely* can use a full voice-and-data SIM with an iPhone to both make and receive phone calls over the cellular network using your phone’s normal phone number. This is important for those of us that use our personal phone as a work phone, as well. There are inherent limitations with this since iPhones are not supported by Fi, but I think it’s important to point out that you’re not limited to data only while aboard on an iPhone with Project Fi.

  • You mentioned you can suspend your account and not be charged. In my case for example I would be interested in using this service ONLY when I am outside the US which is around 6 times a year. Thus, my understanding is that it would still cost me at least $30 per month when I activate the service to use abroad ($20 fee + $10 per GB). Is that correct? It would be nice to avoid buying SIM cards in every country I visit but not sure if it makes sense to have Google Fi just for that.

    • I use Google Fi about 4-6 times a year. Before I leave on my international trip, I turn it on, then a week later, I come back and then I pause my service.
      It costs me about $5 for the week and usually another $10 or $20 for data. To me, it’s a pretty phenomenal deal and quite convenient. I usually just tether my iPhone to my google fi which seems to work well enough.

    • It would be the $20 (plus the taxes and fees, like $3.40 or so) per month plus whatever data you use. The $10 is charged but you are refunded for whatever portion of 1GB you do not use in that month.
      Also, if you refer others, you both will get $20 off so that can help to soften that monthly bill part as well!

  • Just got back from French Polynesia where Google Fi doesn’t have a contract for data or phone. On the other hand it does work on Rapa Nui, (Easter Island).
    I am happy with having a data only SIM but have not tried a phone app that I liked. I used Talkatone when it was free, but wouldn’t pay for it.

  • Thanks for this – I’ve been wanting to use Google FI for a while – Question – If there are 2 of us (my wife and I) – Could I buy a cheap google nexus phone and basically use it as a hotspot for both of us? We both have iPhones – Have a few trips planned and I’m looking for the best solution.

    Thanks!

    • I swear I’m not a Google shill. Pinky swear. I’m just super happy with Project Fi.

      But yeah, you absolutely can use a Nexus phone as a portable hotspot. I purchased a cheap, used Nexus 6 when I first started with Fi in 2015-ish as an early adopter. Did so both to register/activate my SIM and to use as a primary phone in case the iPhone “hacks” didn’t work and my phone became inoperable abroad. Aside from the inherent limitations of iPhones on Fi (no group texts with Android users, no visual voicemail, etc.) , I’ve had zero problems with my iPhone and have since popped a data-only SIM in my Nexus and use the phone as a hotspot when I travel for work or when travelling abroad with a group of friends and we need a portable hotspot we can all use while we’re sightseeing. Worked great all over Asia, Africa, and in Europe this year and the last few years when my partner and I have travelled with friends. We drop it in a little backpack we have along with our water bottles and sunglasses and a portable charger (it’ll last a decent amount of time on one charge, but better safe than sorry), then we all take turns being the hotspot/water mule.

      As for the Nexus 6/5 conundrum in your next post, I think Nexus 5X was the first (oldest?) phone compatible with Fi. Go to this link and scroll to the bottom: https://fi.google.com/about/phones/. That should have all the info you need.

      • Again, Adam nailed it. I used the Google Nexus phone as a hotspot for my iPhone on many trips and it worked great so you will be all set with that!
        The Nexus 6 was the first one actually and then the Nexus 5X and 6P before the Pixel phones. The Nexus 6 was a giant phone and the 5X was a much smaller one which may work better for just tucking it away as a tethering device.

        • Thank you both! So I just purchased a Nexus 5x – Should I order a data only sim or a voice/data sim??? Primary use is a hotspot, but I guess it cant hurt to be able to make an occasional call internationally…?

          • Jeremy,

            Apologies for the late reply, but I’d go for the voice/data SIM. Even if you only use the data aspect, data rates are the same independent of the type of SIM. You will be paying a bit more, though, as it’s $20 base for the voice/text capability. But I’d rather have the ability to make a phone call but not need to than the other way around. And since you can suspend service as you need to, you’re only paying that extra $20 every so often. But, if your everyday phone works just fine for making calls internationally and costs less than $20 to do so, then just go with the data-only SIM.

  • Sorry 1 more comment – As far as getting a basic google nexus phone to activate it- Quick search of ebay shows Nexus 6, Nexus 5 – Will any of those do??? Sorry.. I know iphones, not Nexus phones

    • The list of Google Fi phones (by rollout) are:
      – Nexus 6 (make sure it is Model XT1103 and unlocked)
      – Nexus 5X
      – Nexus 6P
      – Pixel and Pixel XL
      – Moto X4 (available directly from Google for $249 brand new)
      – Pixel 2 and Pixel XL 2
      Given that the Nexus 6 no longer receives security updates or software updates, I would go for, at minimum, the 5X.

  • I signed up and ordered the service. But when I went to add the Data Only SIM I got an error that says, “Ordering not available
    We’re not accepting orders at the moment. Please check back later.”

    So beware…

  • Man, you are gorgeous!! I’ve been stocked in the google support for hours and you solved it. I’m using iPhone and couldn’t find the bug to use mobile data in Canada. Thank you!

  • Activating your Fi SIM on a phone that previously was used to activate another Project Fi SIM WILL NOT WORK; I discovered this the hard way & there’s a reddit post confiiming the same issue. If you do this, your SIM will “inherit” the number that the previous Project FI SIM had & you won’t be able to port your number, even though you could put in the new Fi SIM into your iphone.

    I believe this could be a huge security risk that Google may not be aware of.

    In order to activate, you can borrow a friend’s approved Fi phone or buy a used approved Fi phone, provided that phone has not previously been used with Project Fi any time previously.

    • That is actually incorrect. If the Android phone has previously been activated on Google Fi, all you have to do before attempting to activate the new Google Fi SIM card is to clear the app cache for the Project Fi app. (Settings -> Apps & Notifications -> App Info -> (scroll to and select Project Fi app -> clear both cache and data.

      I have successfully activated a second Fi SIM on an Android device that was already activate on a different account. After I had activated the new SIM, I simply followed the same process to log back into the original Fi account.

  • I can’t send or receive photos or other mms data to anything but iphones, I’m using an iPhone 6 Plus, what am I missing? What are the apn settings? I started out with a nexus 6 and broke the screen so I’ve had to switch to the iPhone, can you help?

    • I have been unable to get inbound MMS to work. I have a total of two friends who don’t have iPhones, so it’s not a big deal for my use case.

      I use “h2g2” as the APN for Cellular, LTE and MMS. I leave everything else blank, except for the MMS section, where I also enter “http://mmsc1.g-mms.com/mms/wapenc” in the MMSC field, “1048676” in the MMS Max Message Size field and “http://www.apple.com/mms/uaprof.rdf” in the MMS UA Prof URL field. This allows me to successfully send MMS without issue.

      I think the only issue I’ve had with using an iPhone on Fi is that the device does not consistently transition from WiFi to cellular. Sometimes it will refuse to switch to cellular even after I’m miles away from the WiFi signal and I can only fix by power cycling the device. Annoying, but not a big deal IMO

  • My wife and I have US numbers but travel internationally all the time. If I set her up with a Fi compatible phone with her number and purchase a data only Sim for my iphone. Can I port my phone number to google hangout and can we make voice calls to each other on the same data plan?

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