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 (if you sign up with this link, you will get $20 credit and I will get credit as well – thanks and your welcome!)
What Is Google Fi (or Google Project 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.
Or, find 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:
- Open the project fi website.
- In the Account tab, go to Your Plan.
- Select Add data-only SIM.
- 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.
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.
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!
Tracking Data Usage
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 line! That 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