Google Fi, we explain everything.

Picture of Alexis Le Marec
Alexis Le Marec
As an avid user of social media and online applications, Alexis shares her expertise on how technology influences our social interactions and our daily lives. His practical advice will help you navigate the connected world with ease.

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Since its appearance in the United States, Google Fi has been gaining momentum and is attracting more and more fans. Google’s cell phone plan has a lot going for it. Launched with the promise to “payback” unused data, the subscription also allows you to make free calls via 5G whether you are in the United States, Canada or Mexico. Since its launch, the plans have evolved, and have always been in the right direction by offering nothing less than unlimited data for two of the three plans offered. With such a great offer, it’s no wonder Canadians dream of seeing Google Fi come to Canada, and it’s even less surprising to see Google Fi subscriptions flourish in Canada.

Yet Google isn’t very interested in venturing outside the U.S. borders. Google Fi is still a project and a successful one at that, but Google is keeping a low profile and is even better off remaining a small player in the telecom world for reasons we’ll explain below. It has no interest as a project to be exported. This doesn’t stop Canadians from defying the rules and getting Google Fi subscriptions, even if you’ll see that it’s a complicated process that requires many conditions to be met. In any case, Google has succeeded in shaking up the competition in its market, and there is no shortage of praise and criticism.

How does Google Fi work?  

First known as Project Fi, Google Fi is an MVMO, a virtual operator that does not own its lines. In the United States, Google Fi uses the T Mobile network. In the rest of the world, Google has agreements with various local operators that also use Google technologies for Wi-Fi calls. This is how Google was able to quickly offer roaming in more than 210 countries.

However, it is important to know that Wi-Fi calls are only available with phones that integrate Google Fi technology, which allows you to move more quickly from one network to another. The choice is quite limited since this technology is only available on the Google Pixel and the Samsung Galaxy A and S.

Outside the United States, Canada and Mexico, calls using the 5G network are charged at $0.20 per minute

Why is Google Fi so popular?  

Google Fi’s success is primarily due to the unique benefits it offers to its customers. Beyond its coverage, Google has innovated in several areas, most notably in its data usage policy.

Free data everywhere in the United States, Canada and Mexico, hard to believe, but if you opt for a Simply Unlimited or Unlimited Plus plan, the data you use whether you are in the United States, Canada or Mexico is included in your plan. However, if you use more than 50GB of data, the speed is slowed down by Google.

A sliding scale of charges for several people: If several people in your household subscribe to a Google Fi package, you will benefit from a discount on your package. We’re not talking about a full-price main plan with additional family members, but a discounted rate that is automatically applied when two people in the same household sign up for Google Fi.

Its 5G coverage in the United States uses T-Mobile’s network, providing coverage of more than 53% of the United States. As a result, Google Fi is available in many major U.S. cities and does not fear roaming.

The integration of Google Fi into the Google ecosystem is also praised. Google Fi offers 100GB of online storage to all Unlimited Plus subscribers as well as a one-year subscription to YouTube Premium.

Unused data is not charged: Since the appearance of unlimited plans, this option popular at the launch of Google Fi in 2015 is now only for the Flexible subscription. Regarding unused data, many articles have described a refund made by Google which is false. In reality, Google offers a credit of a few dollars that will be deducted from the next bill.

What is criticized about Google Fi?  

The first criticism is that the number of phones compatible with Google Fi is too limited in the eyes of many. In a country like the United States where the iPhone is king, the limited compatibility with iPhones is a real problem, but we’ll see below that Google has an interest in limiting the success of Google Fi, and in keeping an application in beta version on Apple phones.

The other criticism concerns Google Fi’s subscription rates, which are more expensive than many competitors. On the other hand, with unlimited data, Google Fi makes up for it on this point, but as far as its packages are concerned, there are indeed competitors offering packages for a few dollars less.

The second criticism comes from its limited 5G compatibility in foreign countries with few phones. Only the Galaxy from S21 to S23 are compatible as well as the latest Pixels like the Pixel 6 or Pixel 7. Frequent travellers can forget about their iPhones and other Motorola phones outside the United States. This situation is not likely to improve because by launching Google Fi, Google has placed itself in a special position vis-à-vis telecom operators.

How does the importance of Google penalize Google Fi?  

This is a problem that only affects Google and no other company in the telecom industry. By becoming an NVMO, Google is competing with its customers in the phone business, starting with companies like T-Mobile, Verizon or enc0ore At&T. As in Canada, U.S. operators are selling Pixel, Google’s cell phone, and thus participating in the promotion of Android. The sales force of the Pixel, therefore, depends in part on the operators. Google must therefore be careful to remain discreet so as not to compete head-on with those who support part of its business. To this end, the company has cut its investments in television commercials. Its communication continues on the Internet, a medium that usually reaches a young adult segment, the target of NVMOs.

In the same vein, the incompatibility of Wi-Fi calls abroad with phones other than Pixels and Galaxy is also a way to restrict the use of Google Fi, especially when we know that in 2022 60% of phones in the United States were iPhones.

How many customers does Google Fi have?  

Google has not released any data, but experts estimate the number of Google Fi users at a few million. Google is still in an exploratory phase in telephony with a technology designed in its labs regarding data and network facilities. The company is still undecided about its future in this field.

What are the packages offered by Google Fi?  

The Flexible subscription for $20 includes 10GB of data. Each GB of data consumed will be charged $10 up to a maximum of $60. After exceeding this limit, the data is free. It allows unlimited calls from Canada and Mexico and unlike the Simply Unlimited plan, it allows you to use your data from abroad.

Simply Unlimited offered at $50 includes unlimited calls and data. However, only calls are unlimited from Canada and Mexico in addition to the United States and not data.

Unlimited Plus is the most expensive subscription offered by Google. It includes unlimited calls and data from the US, Canada and Mexico. Data is also unlimited outside this area, while each call will be charged 0.20 cents per minute. This subscription also comes with 1 year of YouTube Premium and 100 Gb of storage on the Google Cloud service.

Outside the United States, each call is charged at $0.20 per minute

How do I get Google Fi in Canada?  

Google Fi is not available in Canada, and Google has also strengthened its control methods, especially with regard to Activation via VPN.

However, it is possible to take advantage of Google Fi in Canada, but this operation will require several steps to discourage many potential interested parties. First of all, you will need an American Google account. Forget your Canadian Gmail, you will have to create a new Google account!

The second step is to have a physical address in the United States to have your eSIM code sent to you. Since P.O. Boxes are not recognized for fraud reasons, you will need a real address with a person residing in the United States. Of course, activating your number will have to be done from the US. And forget about the solution of going near the American border to try to fool Google, as we are talking about Google, the company that created Google Maps and knows how to locate Wi-Fi networks with precision.

Finally, the third step is a bit more complicated as you will need to have a bank account in the United States to pay your monthly bill.

If you can meet all three conditions, you can order Google Fi and activate a line.

Now comes the problem of calls. With an American number, all your Canadian correspondents will call you at premium rates. You will have to get a new Canadian phone number by subscribing to a VOIP phone service, and then forward this number to your phone. As with any VOIP service, you will also have to pay extra for the answering machine, which adds to the bill.

Finally, Google can perform audits and several users have had their subscription cut off by Google for being away from the United States for more than six months. So plan a visit to our neighbours to the south twice a year.

Which phones are compatible with Google Fi?  

Many current phones can work with Google Fi.  In general, Android-based phones launched since 2021 are compatible with Google Fi. This includes the One Plus 10T and One Plus 10, the Xiaomi Mi A2, Mi A2 light, and Mi A1, as well as many Motorola phones, including pre-2021.

The palm of compatibility goes to Samsung, whose all phones launched since 2015 are compatible with Google. The same goes for the Pixel, all of which are compatible with Google Fi.

On the iPhone side, all are compatible from iPhone 6S onwards, however, Google Fi is still in beta on iPhones, including iPhone 14.

To find out if your phone is compatible with Google Fi, you can also check it on the Google Fi website.

Finally, it should be noted that the Google Pixel offers better coverage when making Wi-Fi calls via Google Fi thanks to its ability to better switch between networks. Also, if you plan to use a 5G network from abroad, only Samsung’s Galaxy and Google’s Pixel are compatible.

Is Google Fi of interest in Canada?  

If Google were available in Canada, of course, it would be an interesting subscription for someone who needs a lot of data. Otherwise, many plans starting at $35 offer unlimited calls in Canada. So yes Google Fi allows you to call the US and Mexico too, but how many of you really need to call these countries regularly outside of work? Except that Google Fi is not available in Canada, and getting a subscription is complicated, not to mention the fact that if Google discovers you, your account will be closed, not to mention the steps to take to get your number back.

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