Good Bye! Google Fi! – The best, easiest, cheapest phone service for travel, and why I had to leave it
I had Google Fi as my primary carrier from August 2016 to April 2023. It revolutionized the way I travel. I used it in dozens of countries and was thrilled with the service. Alas, we can’t have nice things forever.
International Data Suspended!
They cut off my data during a trip. With little notice.
They cannot tell me what triggers a disconnection and what will allow it to start again!
I asked in many ways. All they say I must “primarily” use it in the US. They will not tell me if it measures amount of data used or time spent. Not over what period, if it resets each year etc. How can you comply if they will not tell you what the exact terms are?
Google Fi is no longer attractive as a domestic carrier. International Data is the only appeal
In 2016 Google Fi was a decent deal. Today it is not. I do not normally use a lot of data when in the US. For example with 4 GB a month on Google fi you pay $60 ($20 talk and text plus $10 a GB) versus Mint Mobile where I am now paying $20 for talk text and 15GB a month. An unlimited plan on Google fi is $65 a line if you want international data and $50 without. Versus Visible (roams in Verizon network) which is $25 a month unlimited and Mint mobile (roams same as Google fi on T mobile) is $30 a month. I cannot think of a reason to have this service except for the international data option.
Google fi has never been the cheapest international data option
I did not have an unlimited plan and paid Google Fi $10 a GB overseas. This is very expensive. For comparison when I was in Italy for 6 weeks in January I got a Vodaphone local sim. It was $30 for talk text and 30GB of data. Ignoring the talk that is 10 x less expensive than paying Google fi. The benefit of Fi was convenience. If you are say transiting in London for 3 days, on a cruise with stops in many countries, popping in and out of a place and don’t want to deal with getting a sim it was perfect. I was willing to pay a huge premium to buy data through them rather than to deal with a local sim in many cases.
The basics Google Fi plan and costs.
For calls and texts, the first line is $20 a month for unlimited service. Incoming calls and all texts are always free. You have to pay to make an outgoing call when in another country, usually 20 cents a minute to the US. Wifi calling is an option to lower the price.
For data and internet, you pay $10 a GB. It is capped at 6GB for the month so it will never be more than $60 in data charges for one line $100 for 2 lines. Unlike other companies, where you choose a static monthly amount of data, Google Fi is flexible. You only pay for what you use. Your bill changes monthly. At home, around wifi, the data portion of my bill is often $4. Months where I have been on long trips by road or train, or in hotels with lousy, expensive, or no wifi, data charges have often been $30-$40. I do not use it for streaming video or downloading large files but mostly for work, uploading pictures, checking email, use mapping programs, etc.
Travel to 200+ countries and territories with no extra work or cost.
You roll off the plane and have fast internet, even 5G, with no hassle! For the same price you pay at home. It is shocking how many places it works. It worked at Everest Base Camp in Tibet! My total bill for two lines, texting, calls, and data has never been over $100. That is with using the phone data for a laptop’s wifi. Yes, you can tether! This means you can turn the phone into a wifi hotspot and any wifi-enabled device can draw from the phone’s internet connection. With local sim cards, I found that tethering is often not an option. This severely limits working on a laptop from remote locations.
Places where Google Fi Did not work for me
Marshall Islands, Maldives, Tonga, Cuba, French Polynesia (Society islands- Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea and New Caledonia)
Places Google Fi Did work
Everywhere in Europe. Azerbaijan, China, Tibet, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Russia (Haven’t been since 2018 so may have changed). Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Japan, Korea, Australia, Samoa, Sri Lanka, South Africa. Probably many more I am forgetting. It is easier to remember the places it did not work.