Project Fi is no longer an exclusive club for owners of select Android phones. Google announced today (Nov. 28) that it's opening up its mobile phone service to many more devices, including Apple's iPhones. Oh, and Project Fi is getting a new name for a good measure.
Updated Nov. 28 at 3:50 pm ET: Additional information about iPhone usage on Google Fi has been added.
Credit: GoogleHaving evidently moved past the project phase, the wireless service is now called Google Fi. As of this moment, you can visit the Google Fi site and sign up for service using most Android phones; Conversely, iPhone owners are being directed to get started with the Google Fi iOS App – though you should note that Fi for iPhone is launching as a beta. You can check for compatibility with your device using this tool.
What is Google Fi?
Fi has become popular in recent years because of its unique approach compared to most other carriers. For one, you're only charged for the amount of data that you use. There's just a "plan", and it starts at $ 20 for access to a line, plus an additional $ 10 for every gigabyte consumed. If you've got one line and use more than 6GB, you only pay a maximum of $ 80 for that month, thanks to a feature called Bill Protection. (For two lines, Bill Protection kicks in at 10GB.)
MORE: Google Fi Review: Seamless Wireless Service From Google
The other thing that makes Fi special is the network it's based on – or rather, the networks. Google has inked deals with T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular, and up to today, all phones running on Fi could seamlessly switch between the three, depending on whoever had the fastest signal; Fi also uses Wi-Fi hotspots for connectivity when they are available.
We say "up to today" because with Google, when all these new phones go to Fi, these rules are changing a bit.
Fi's network switching depends on a combination of hardware and software found in select phones that Google has vetted, like the Pixel 3, LG G7 and Moto X4 Android One. iPhones and conventional Android devices do not have any of that, and as a result, they will be limited to T-Mobile only service. Phones that have not been optimized for Fi will not auto-switch to Google's Wi-Fi either, the same way they will not auto-switch between the three carriers.
It's not a surprising compromise, given how Fi is set up, but it's disappointing one nonetheless. Technically, Fi always worked There are phones that were not designed for it – you'd just miss out on being able to use multiple networks if you put an Fi SIM card in unsupported hardware. The same looks to be true here. These devices will also lack Fi's brand-new Enhanced Network beta, which runs all traffic through Google's VPN for increased security.
The Fi website cautions that iPhone users will have to do a little bit of tweaking to get texting to work properly. While iMessage will function "out of the box," APN settings must be modified to enable MMS. However, this is not something out of the ordinary; Users who are familiar with bringing their own device to a non-contract carrier are probably familiar with following a similar process to enable full messaging support.
Other Fi Perks
Thankfully, no matter what phone you own, you still get Fi's other perks. Aside from the nifty pricing scheme, which includes access to Google's two million free (and secured) Wi-Fi hotspots around the world, to get you off of metered mobile data as often as possible. Fi owners have the right to free data-only SIMs to use in any device they please. Plus, Fi happens to be a great network for travelers, as service continues in more than 170 countries outside the U.S., and costs the same too.
Speaking of which, Google is ringing in the Fi, re-launches with two travel-themed promotions, both of which run for today only. First off, if you buy any phone through Fi, Google will issue you the equivalent amount in travel-related gift cards, whether you're a new subscriber or not. Alternatively, if you're starting up Fi on your current phone, the company will give you $ 200 in service credit upon joining.