It’s been about 6 weeks since I activated my cell phone service with Project Fi. For those who haven’t heard about it yet, Fi is Google’s pay as you go, contract free cell phone service. It uses the T-Mobile and Sprint Networks (via dual-sided SIM card) and will place calls over wi-fi if the signal is good enough. I think the big “pro” of Google Fi is that you truly only pay for what you use. You buy data on a per-gigabyte basis, but any unused data is credited back the next month as a statement credit. I purchased a Nexus 5x from Fi to use – you have to use a Fi enabled phone. Fi allows you to spread the cost of the phone over X months without any interest or financing fees, so that’s what I did.
Here are my thoughts on a few different aspects of my Fi experience:
My Phone: Nexus 5x
- No bloatware! (Mostly from no longer being on Verizon. But I’ve really loved having full control over my phone and what’s on it. At this point it would be hard for me to go back to a phone with a provider that force-installed apps and updates)
- Heavy use of maps/navigation leaves phone hot to the touch
- Good fingerprint scanner
- Poor battery life
- Uses a USB Type C charger, which is impossible to find anywhere except online, and is not compatible with any other device I own. I miss the USB 3.0 charger that my Galaxy S5 used.
- The charger that came with my 5x was dead on arrival, and Fi originally said that I had to send my whole phone back in order to get them to replace the charger. After refusing, they agreed (at my suggestion) to give me a statement credit for the $ amount of a new charger on Amazon.
- More built in storage than my S5. I got the 32GB Nexus 5x. I was constantly out of room on my Galaxy. This one should take a lot longer to fill up.
- Lack of aesthetics. I got the white 5x, but only half of it is white. The front is still black. I think that this makes it look cheap and I should have just gotten the all black one.
Well, long story short, my bill is a lot lower. Including the ~$10/month for my phone, my bill is $45. On Verizon Wireless my half of the bill was about $75. Considering that my Fi bill includes the cost of my phone, and my Verizon bill didn’t, the appropriate comparison would be $35/month on Fi vs $75/month on VZW.
Obviously this varies by region. I have definite issues with Fi service. I live in the Pittsburgh metro area and many times when I look down at my phone, it has no service. Verizon is king around here, and for good reason: their network is the best. I’m not used to not being able to send a text message because I don’t have service.
My biggest pain point with Fi, though, is the call quality issue I have. Whether I have WiFi calling off or on, I have issues where the person on the other end of the phone can’t hear me. Other times my voice is distorted or has a severe echo. At times I feel like my phone is not a phone, it’s only good for things that require data or WiFi. I’ve been dropped off the call for important work meetings more times than I can count.
I’ve only ever used the Project Fi e-mail customer service. Sometimes I get a response within a day, other times is takes a few days. One time I waited 8 days without a response before I replied saying so, and that was answered within an hour. It seems very hit-or-miss.
I’ve also found that the customer service reps seem to follow a template. Whatever your complaint is, they will sympathize and say that they hate when that happens to them, too. “Hannah, I too have had service drop during important work meetings so I know your frustration!” “I once had a charger break on me, I was so annoyed!” It’s comical to me at this point because it’s painfully obvious that one of the points in their script is to sympathize with the user.
The e-mail customer service reps also love to send you links to Project Fi help articles that you’ve already looked at. They’ve sent me the same articles on troubleshooting service problems over and over. It’s probably to the point now where I need to call, but it makes it hard to call when your phone hardly functions as a phone in the first place!
The jury is still out. I can’t decide if the savings are worth it. Right now, I’m leaning towards “no”, because what good is a phone if it doesn’t function as a phone? If I didn’t have to dial into so many meetings for work, I may not be as bothered by the cell service issues. But 6 weeks in? The cell service and call quality issues I’ve had with Fi have overshadowed the cost savings of the switch.