Why I switched to Google Fi

I’ve had my cellular service via AT&T for nearly 20 years, but last week I cancelled my account and moved over fully to Google Fi.

(To preface all of this, I’m on iOS, which only recently became a candidate for Google Fi (for obvious reasons). It’s in “beta” on iOS right now, and so many of the benefits below don’t yet extend to iPhones, but I signed up hoping that they eventually would. Don’t fuck this up, Google and Apple 🙃.)

WTF is Google Fi? WiFi?

I get this question — and this (mostly erroneous, but wholly understandable) association — nearly every time I bring up the service. Google Fi is an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator), meaning that it basically piggybacks off of cellular infrastructure it doesn’t own or operate.

In the case of Google Fi, it switches between T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S Cellular (at least in the US) — whichever is best at your current location.

Effectively, Google Fi is your cellular provider. So, why is it better than any single US carrier?

A hard $80 price ceiling (for individual users)

Basic, this-is-a-phone service is $20/mo. Non-throttled data is $10/GB until you hit 6GB, after which it’s free, but your speeds eventually get throttled after you hit 15GB. (By how much, I’m not yet sure.)

International data is no-fuss

Traveling overseas? No problem. It just works. In 170+ countries. As anyone who has traveled overseas knows, the US carriers will fuck you. Yes, often you can buy an international SIM once you’ve landed, but most people will just want to take whatever their carrier offers, and it’s usually shit.

With Google Fi, international data is treated no differently than domestic data, and requires zero preparation or setup.

Tethering is free

Turning your phone into a WiFi hotspot costs nothing; though, obviously, the data used counts against your plan.

Aren’t you worried about Google spying on every bit?

Sort of. I don’t know the deal Google has worked out with these carriers, and could find no information re it on the Fi site. But, generally, cellular data is encrypted, though not necessarily end-to-end, and from what I understand the type of encryption can vary wildly from provider-to-provider and from tech-to-tech.

In any event, I’m kind of a weirdo when it comes to VPNs (surprise!) and so this just isn’t something I worry about too much. If Google Fi conflicted with or caused any problems with either my DNS provider or any of my VPNs, I’d sound the alarm, but I just haven’t run in to that yet.