Project Fi, a mobile service from Google that puts Wi-Fi first, is intriguing for its simplicity and reasonable rates. People who use minimal data or travel internationally.
At a glance
- Plans start at $20 per month
- Notables: Pay only for the data you use, at a flat rate; good international roaming rates; limited phone selection
Project Fi cell phone plans
For $20 a month on Project Fi, you get unlimited talk and text, including unlimited international texting and relatively good international voice roaming rates.
Data is a flat $10 per gigabyte. If you don’t use all your data, you’ll get a refund for the unused fraction the next month. If you use more, you’ll still pay for what you use, but you won’t be charged a penalty for going over your limit.
However you slice it, you’ll be paying only for the data you use, at $10 per gigabyte.
(You also get this same $10 per GB data rate when roaming internationally with Project Fi, available in more than 135 countries.)
Really, choosing a “data plan” on Project Fi is about budgeting more than anything. For example, if you select 2 gigabytes of data, you’ll pay $40 at the beginning of the month ($20 for talk and text, and $20 for 2GB of data). If you use only 1GB of data, you’ll be refunded $10 against next month’s $40 bill, meaning that month you’ll pay only $30.
Or, if you don’t care to budget, you could just pay $20 for your first month of service, then pay for whatever data you used at the beginning of the next month.
You can also add five more lines to your plan, each for $15 per month. Everyone’s data is still charged at $10 per gigabyte.
Project Fi’s network
Project Fi has partnered with Sprint, T-Mobile and now U.S. Cellular for its network coverage. It prioritizes Wi-Fi calling using publicly accessible networks, switching over to the cellular networks only as a backup.
You can transition between Wi-Fi and different networks seamlessly, but the technology required to manage that handoff is why Project Fi’s phone selection is so thin.
How Project Fi compares on prices
Project Fi makes the most sense if you use minimal data. Taking a look at our comparison of prepaid plan prices, Project Fi is most competitive when you use 1GB or less.
However, if you use 4GB on Project Fi, that’s $60. The same logic applies to having multiple lines on one Project Fi account. Everyone’s data is charged at $10 per gigabyte, so buying a large pool of shared data from another carrier would often end up cheaper.
Keep in mind, though, that on Project Fi you pay only for what you use, so it’s a bit different from other prepaid plans. If you rarely use all of your monthly data allotment, Google’s mobile service makes more sense.
Plus, you might end up using less data on Project Fi than on another carrier, as your phone will connect you to publicly available Wi-Fi whenever you’re out and about.
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Stephen Layton is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updated July 11, 2017.