Google Fi: The Mobile Operator for Travelers

Google Fi: The Mobile Operator for Travelers

After having GoogleFi on my Google Pixel for a few months, I finally got to use the service outside the United States on an extended three-week trip to the UK, France, and Portugal.

The Fi eliminates a lot of hassles that impact the idea of "staying connected." Beyond the obvious of not having to deal with the concept of roaming and the costs associated with it, Google Fi solves others. These solutions include not having to deal with the hassles of changing SIM cards or only using Wi-Fi to communicate when you can find a hotspot. So as a T-Mobile customer who can roam for free, with their service I only receive free 2G coverage in LTE markets, but have to pay an enormous up charge to buy real LTE coverage if I want it. That's why the combination of Google Fi, a Pixel, and even an iPhone SE, or iPad, using only a Fi data SIM was a very powerful combination on the trip.

One of the best use cases was connecting my Amazon Echo Tap to the portable hotspot I created with the Pixel. As I traveled from hotel to hotel, the idea of trying to connect the Tap to hotel Wi-Fi was a nonstarter. Instead, I linked it to the SSID of the Pixel and the use of the Echo and what I needed from Alexa was only a question away. This consistency from hotel to hotel and country to country eliminated one more time wasting setup and provided an instant workaround to the limitation of the Echo’s operating system.

The second use case is the data only SIM card option which GoogleFi now provides. I grabbed one just before my trip started and popped it into my iPhone SE and used that as a second phone to my iPhone 6 Plus that had a local SIM in each country to use as the smaller form factor has its own set of benefits at events and while in motion. The biggest pluses were using Dialpad and Telzio to make and receive calls and the use of Apple’s iMessage and FaceTime as the Google Fi SIM presents a voice-capable mobile number, something most data plan SIM’s do not.

The combination of those everyday “data” services provided me the same functionality as if I had a regular mobile phone SIM in my iPhone but still allowed me to receive calls or be messaged by my contacts back home quickly, as well as to make international calls. It was in many ways a better solution than the local SIM for calls, as the locals I was calling would recognize my US number but not know my new local in-country numbers. That alone eliminated phone tag in some cases.

The last benefit I found with the GoogleFI SIM regardless of the device in use was how well it worked with all my apps and services. As someone who is heavily reliant on Zoom and UberConference for conference calls, I was able to have the best of both. Using the Zoom app, I clicked, and the data network provided my connection to the video and audio service, while a call via Dialpad to UberConference dropped me into the bridge directly.

The other benefit to GoogleFi is price. For $20.00 a month subscribers receive one gig anywhere and unlimited voice and text, with credit for unused data. When more data is used, you are billed at a flat rate of $10.00 per gig, on a pay as you go basis. It’s the best deal around, as there’s also no throttling back on the data once you bust your data bundle limit.

As rock solid of a service and price competitive GoogleFi is, the value is really appreciated when you leave the USA and have a hassle-free experience, while always “Staying, CONNECTED.”


Andy Abramson is Xceptional's Marketing Consultant, long time VoIP industry watcher, and author of VoIPWatch.