In late November of 2018, Google Fi officially came to the iPhone. While it was possible to use it with the iPhone before (through some backdoor options and with data only SIM cards), Google now officially supports the iPhone with the Google Fi program. I have had some time to use it now internationally and wanted to give a review of how well it works.
Remember, if you are an owner of the new iPhone XS, XS Max, or XR, you have dual SIM functionality (where your primary carrier uses the eSIM). This will allow you to use that second SIM slot for Google Fi, making your international travel and communication more seamless than ever.
Review: Official Google Fi on iPhone
Link: Sign-Up for Google Fi (until January 8, get a $20 credit with my referral link – thank you and your welcome!)
I have been a huge fan and user of Google Project Fi since it came out several years ago. Since that time, I have used it, both on official Fi phones and with the iPhone, in countries all over the world and it is my go-to service for connectivity around the globe.
Even though I have had a Google phone since Fi came out, I have really just used the iPhone with the data SIM for my international travels. This is because of the iMessage functionality of iOS and the fact that my daily phone is an iPhone. While the data-only SIM worked great, I looked forward to a time when Google Fi officially supported the iPhone.
Signing Up for Google Fi with the iPhone
Now, you can actually sign-up for Google Fi specifically for use on an iPhone. This puts the Google Fi app on your iPhone so you can control your Google Fi account right from the phone, as well as being able to see your data usage.
It is quick and easy though it takes a couple of extra steps to get the messaging working (so that you can use the native iOS message app to send and receive SMS messages to anyone). It is actually pretty easy and Google does a good job of walking you through the process.
After that, you are able to send SMS messages to anyone with the iPhone and Google Fi (instead of having to use Google Hangouts) and you can actually make phone calls from the iOS native dialer – something that was not really possible in the past. However, remember that this will cost (while SMS messages are free around the world and data is always $10 per GB). If you want to make calls at significantly cheaper prices, you can do that through Google Hangouts when signed in with the associated Google account.
Using Official Google Fi with the iPhone
Once you get your Google Fi sim for iPhone and set it up, you are good to go! Just remember that you do not get the hybrid switching technology that Google phones get in the US. That switching allows Google phones to switch on the go between Sprint and T-Mobile networks. With the iPhone, you only have access to T-Mobile.
But, when you are traveling internationally, this is not a problem at all. It will roam on the various GSM networks and does not need the hybrid switching that Google Fi relies on in the US. Plus, you get hotspot (to share data with other devices and use your iPhone as a WiFi access point – something that wasn’t officially supported before).
The speeds I received in various countries were pretty good, ranging from 10Mbps to over 40Mbps! The connection worked great in many areas as well, including parts of the Israeli desert!
I did have to make a couple of phone calls and that worked just like it should – connections were quick and audio quality clean.
One thing about the new Google Fi compatibility with iPhone that makes the phone calling feature helpful is that you can make calls over the air instead of through an app. This is great for places like UAE where it is against the law to use an app to make VoiP calls (and can be the case in other places as well). That has always been a pain when I am in Dubai – not being able to use apps like FaceTime or Skype to contact people. The ability to make calls directly through the cellular network with Google Fi and iPhone is a helpful one.
Tip for Google Fi with iPhone for International Use
One thing that I did notice as I used the new Google Fi sim instead of the old data only SIM was that I found the carrier automation to sometimes not be that great. This is the feature that allows the carrier to be auto selected. I found that there were times that the carrier that had been selected was not giving a good connection and it did not auto-switch to a different carrier.
Instead, I had to go int to shut off the auto select and choose a different carrier. I had to do this in 2 countries and then remember to go back and change it to auto when I left the area I had problems in.
I am not sure if this is more a function of my phone or the Google Fi network scanning for carriers. I don’t think it is my phone because I have had no problem in the past with the data-only SIM. Just be aware of this.
Overall, the ability to officially use Google Fi with the iPhone is a very welcome development for the Google Fi program and one that I found to be executed pretty well. This should be a great way for iPhone owners who travel to have cheap data and SMS/phone call availability around the world. True, US carriers have gotten better with their international plans but some of them may still be more expensive than Google Fi.