Money expert Clark Howard recommends Google Fi Wireless, a cell phone service operated by Google, because of the provider’s affordable plans and simple international travel benefits.
Google Fi Wireless partners with T-Mobile, intelligently switching your phone to the best network possible (5G, 4G LTE, 3G, or 2G) depending on your location.
This article was updated in April 2023 and I review it every six months. Detailed notes on all updates can be found here.
Everything You Need To Know About Google Fi Wireless
Since I love to travel as frequently as possible, I decided to ditch my unlimited plan with Sprint in 2019 and switch to Google Fi Wireless to lower my cell phone bill without sacrificing phone service abroad. I’ve been a Google Fi Wireless customer now for four years and I’ve used the service in more than nine different countries.
In this review, I’ll share my experience with Google Fi Wireless, how it works during international trips and why I’m not switching any time soon.
Google Fi Wireless Review: Table of Contents
- Plans and Pricing
- Network Partners
- Phone Selection
- Activation Process
- Call and Text Performance
- Data Speeds
- Customer Service
- Pros and Cons
Plans and Pricing
Google Fi Wireless offers three different types of plans:
- Unlimited Plus offers unlimited talk, text and data, plus international data at no extra charge.
- Simply Unlimited offers unlimited talk, text and data with minimal international benefits.
- Flexible offers unlimited talk and text, data is $10 per gigabyte, plus international data at no extra charge.
Let’s take a closer look at the similarities and differences between the plans.
|Flexible||Simply Unlimited||Unlimited Plus|
|Cost (one line, plus taxes and fees)||$20/month||$50||$65|
|Talk and text||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|International call and text (traveling outside U.S.)||Free texts, $0.20/minute for calls||Not included||Free texts, $0.20/minute for calls|
|International data (traveling outside U.S.)||$10/GB||Not included||Free|
All three plans on Google Fi Wireless include unlimited calls and texts. Data is slowed after 15GB of use on the Flexible plan, 35GB on Simply Unlimited and 50GB on the Unlimited Plus plan.
The Unlimited Plus plan also comes with a free Google One membership which gets you 100GB of cloud storage for each member on the plan, and one year of free YouTube Premium.
The Simply Unlimited plan includes full service for compatible smartwatches like the Pixel Watch, at no extra cost.
An unlimited plan might sound appealing, but you should look at your last bill before you switch. I did the math, and at my current data usage, it is significantly cheaper for me to remain on the Flexible plan instead of switching to Google Fi’s unlimited options.
Since I’m still using the Flexible plan with Google Fi Wireless, I’m going to focus on that plan and share information about my billing experience.
As a pay-by-gig data user, the most interesting aspect of Google Fi Wireless is the “fair and flexible” pricing structure. It’s easy to track your bill both online and through the Google Fi app, so you’re never surprised at the end of the month.
Google Fi Wireless starts at $20 for unlimited calls and texts for one person, plus taxes and fees. You can have up to six people on your plan.
Data is $10 per gigabyte. However, if you use less than 1GB of data, you’ll pay less than $10 because the service rounds to the nearest 0.01GB. For example, one month I used just 0.573GB of data, so my bill was only $25.73.
To keep my data costs low, I set an alert to notify me if my usage goes over 1.5GB.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
The Flexible plan offers a Bill Protection feature which makes the service operate more like an unlimited plan, even though you are paying for data. The Bill Protection means you won’t pay for any data used after you hit 6GB. (The cap is 10GB for two people.) Basically, your bill can’t go over $80 for one person per month (not including taxes and fees).
|Plan Size||Data||Maximum Data Cost|
If you use more than 15GB, data is slowed (but still free) for the rest of the month. Fewer than 1% of users exceed 15GB, according to Google Fi.
Tip: Check your current data usage and input your average monthly usage to estimate your bill with Google Fi Wireless before you switch from your current cell phone provider or choose the Unlimited Plus plan. Google Fi says you can “you can switch plans once a month, as many times as you want.”
If you’re a frequent traveler, this is the most important part of Google Fi Wireless! Relying on Wi-Fi alone may not be practical, so this plan solves that and allows users to keep in contact with free texts and access high-speed data while out of the country. In fact, it makes our list of the best international cell phone plans.
Google Fi’s network covers more than 200 destinations around the world. Text messages are free, and voice calls are $0.20 per minute.
The best part is you get high-speed data for the same $10 per GB price, and data is free after 6GB with the Bill Protection feature, even abroad. If you choose the Unlimited Plus plan, you also get free data while traveling internationally.
So how do Google Fi’s international benefits compare to other carriers?
The real perk of the Flexible plan with Google Fi Wireless is the flexibility: You’re spending money only on the services you use. Plus, you have easy access to high-speed data at any time. While I had unlimited data with my previous Sprint plan, it was slowed to 2G abroad which made it more difficult to use helpful travel apps like Google Maps.
Looking at a prepaid provider, Metro by T-Mobile offers 200 minutes, unlimited texts and 200MB of data for an additional $10 per month to any $30 or higher base-rate plan — so $40 minimum for international coverage.
In April 2019, which included my trip to Ireland, I used 1.475GB of data and made $3.40 worth of calls to family in the U.S., so my bill was $38.15 — a few dollars cheaper than a more traditional international plan like Metro by T-Mobile.
The type of coverage you receive is based on your cell phone. Phones designed for Google Fi — all Google Pixel models, Moto G Power, and more — use T-Mobile, as well as a network of Wi-Fi hotspots. The service automatically adjusts coverage based on your location to provide the best experience.
Phones that aren’t designed for Fi are only covered by T-Mobile. Check your coverage here to learn more about the service in your area.
If your unlocked phone is compatible with T-Mobile’s 5G network, you’ll have access to 5G on Fi. There are several Apple and Android phone models that are compatible with T-Mobile 5G service.
You can keep your current unlocked phone (check compatibility) and switch to Google Fi Wireless. In fact, most Android phones and iPhones work with the network provider. Learn more about bringing your current device to Google Fi Wireless here.
The key is understanding how your service is impacted by the type of phone you use. If you currently own or plan to buy any of the phones listed below, you’ll have access to more networks and hotspots which means better coverage.
Here is a look at a few phones designed for Google Fi as of April 2023:
- Pixel 7 Pro
- Pixel 7
- Pixel 6a
- Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
- Samsung Galaxy S23+
- Samsung Galaxy S23
- Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4
- Moto G Power
Notice any major brands missing? Google says compatibility with an Apple iPhone takes a few extra steps to start using Google Fi Wireless.
Tip: You don’t need to purchase a phone directly through Google Fi Wireless to access the three networks and hotspots! Price compare any of the phone models above to find the best deal so you can receive the higher quality service.
Planning to switch phones before joining Google Fi Wireless? You can trade in your old phone or sell it to make a few extra bucks.
Google Fi Wireless does offer device protection for $5 per month, but Clark doesn’t recommend it. Check to see if your credit card offers free device protection instead.
The activation process was simple and seamless, and Google Fi Wireless doesn’t charge any activation fees.
Before I switched to Google Fi Wireless, I decided to abandon both my iPhone and my unlimited plan with Sprint. After comparing prices around the web, I purchased the Moto G6 through Google Fi to make setup even easier. Plus, the purchase came with a $100 credit per phone on my future bills.
I received my new phone, with the SIM card already inside, less than one week after ordering. My phone number transferred easily, and it took about 15 minutes to get my service up and running.
Since 2019, I have ordered two more phones from Google Fi: a Google Pixel 3a and a Google Pixel 5a. Google provided simple and easy-to-follow steps to move my service to the new phone and the service transition was uninterrupted.
Call and Text Performance
Since joining Google Fi Wireless in February 2019, I have experienced zero dropped calls and zero missing text messages — at home and abroad.
I also tested Wi-Fi calls through Duo and WhatsApp to avoid the $0.20 per minute fee during my trip to Ireland. Wi-Fi voice calls to family in the U.S. worked well. I did experience poor quality during a video call, but my hotel also provided poor internet service.
After landing in Ireland, I noticed a delay — about 5-10 minutes — for my service to activate. Once the network establishes a connection, my service has been seamless.
Since 2019, I have traveled to more than nine countries including France, Panama, Spain, and Thailand, and my experience was the same: short wait for activation and seamless access to data.
Google Fi Wireless claims to offer high-speed data both domestically and internationally. While I don’t regularly stream music or videos on my phone, I haven’t experienced any issues with downloads or buffering.
I used the Speedtest by Ookla app to test download and upload speeds. The average was 36 Mbps download and 35 Mbps upload — plenty fast for video streaming.
The wireless network offers 24/7 support by phone, chat and email, which you can easily access from your online account or through the Google Fi app on your phone.
I lost my Pixel 3a in March 2022 and chatted with customer service to ensure that my data was erased properly. I was connected to a representative in under two minutes and received the action items and assurance I needed.
Pros and Cons
|International features||Not the cheapest pay-by-the-gig plan|
|Flexibility to only pay for what you use||Limited “designed for Fi” phone selection|
Before making the actual switch, you can now try Google Fi Wireless for free for seven days if you have a compatible eSIM phone.
If you’re not a frequent traveler, you may want to consider a less expensive unlimited data plan or a cheaper phone plan before you switch to Google Fi Wireless. Mint Mobile is one of our top recommendations for cell phone plans and it also runs on T-Mobile’s network.
In my experience as a Google Fi Wireless customer, it’s the best phone plan for my lifestyle. I travel several times internationally every year, I’m connected to Wi-Fi at home and at work so I use less data, and I enjoy the Google Pixel phone product (the camera is amazing!).
While cheaper pay-by-gig plans exist, Google Fi’s Bill Protection feature provides the flexibility of an unlimited plan so your bill is never a surprise. If you’re a frequent traveler, this plan is definitely worth your consideration.
Read about other cheap cell phone plans in Team Clark’s guide.
Have you tried Google Fi Wireless? Let us know in our Clark.com community!
- April 20, 2023: Updated Google Fi company name to Google Fi Wireless, added information about smartwatch connectivity on Simply Unlimited plans, and the new seven-day free trial.
- April 17, 2023: Removed U.S. Cellular as a network used by Google Fi. Updated available phone selection list.
- April 8, 2022: Updated plan pricing because Google Fi dropped prices on its Simply Unlimited and Unlimited Plus plans.
- April 22, 2021: Added Google Fi’s new Simply Unlimited plan option.