Project Fi Review: 4 Months in on Google's Wireless Carrier

I've been running my primary number on Project Fi since the beginning of October, and in that time have accumulated a bit of experience with the service. For the most part it's been a great experience, but there are a few things to keep in mind going in if you're considering making the switch.

My previous setup

Prior to switching to Project Fi, I spent a year running my primary number on Google Voice routed to a Cricket SIM card. This worked well, but I regularly experienced audio latency issues in phone calls. It wasn't a dealbreaker, but it required a little bit of adaptation to talk through. I also was perpetually frustrated by my inability to fully utilize the Android Wear SMS features as trying to send a text from my wrist would always utilize my Cricket number instead of my Google Voice number. As far as I can tell this is still an issue today and makes me hesitant to ever go back since this issue has been present for me since Lollipop launched.

Initial Fi setup

Google ships the Fi SIM card in a nice little white package complete with a paperclip shaped SIM removal tool. It was easy enough to swap SIMs and within a few minutes of following the directions and installing the Fi app my phone had successfully connected and activated.

My first test calls immediately worked great, except that incoming calls left me with some new 2 or 3 second voicemails. I was puzzled for a moment until I realized Fi was still forwarding my calls to my old Cricket number because it copied the forwarding settings from my Voice account. Clearing the forward settings rectified this issue.

I also had an issue receiving SMS messages upon activation. I figured this was the result of just having activated Fi, but used the opportunity to test the support feature. I requested support from within the Fi app and about 2 minutes later received a call back from an English-speaking Fi support agent. She confirmed my suspicions and recommended waiting 24 hours to ensure complete functionality. About an hour later I started receiving texts via Fi without any difficulties or further interaction on my part.

Network reliability

Fusing together WiFi, T-Mobile, and Sprint networks has definitely provided me with a very large cell network. I've had mostly reliable coverage throughout the greater Philadelphia area, NYC, northern Delaware, and southern New Hampshire. From time to time I'll tether to another phone running on Verizon in order to keep my data usage down. I've placed or received about 5 calls per day. Call quality has been generally good, but can sometimes become broken up if I'm at the extreme reaches of a cell tower, or I have a weak connection on my tether. The audio latency I used to experience on Google Voice seems to be completely gone. I've had two dropped calls, and both occurred in the same area where the call was initiated on a Sprint tower but then I moved out of range. The cross-network hand off seems to happen successfully from WiFi to a carrier network, but not between carrier networks.

My biggest network issue has been the tendency to stay attached to a weak Sprint signal near my office when T-Mobile offers a much stronger and reliable signal in this location. Thanks to the use of dialer codes in Signal Spy (formerly Fi Spy) I've been able to force my phone to connect to the T-Mobile tower in this area instead of the Sprint tower. This seems to have gotten better in the past week or two and now tends to favor the T-Mobile tower, but it is is frustrating to have to do. In this particular scenario I've seen a night and day difference in my battery life for the day depending on which network is connected at my office.


With reliable WiFi available in most of my daily routines, I typically use under 300 MB of data each month. This has been placing my monthly Fi bill in the vicinity of $25 a month since they give me money back for any unused data each month. However, this is a double-edged sword. I find myself tending to fire up my other phone's tether or using my other phone entirely in order to avoid utilizing my data. When I do anything online connected to the Fi network it's hard not to think about it directly in terms of cost. All of a sudden a 25 megabyte file actually costs me 25 cents out of my pocket to download. The Fi app provides an up to date listing of exactly how much data I've used every day of my plan period.

Other Perks

I initially switched to Google Voice to get the benefits of it linking up to Hangouts and allowing me to call and text across any of my devices with an internet connection. I can make/receive calls and texts from my tablet, Chromebook, or desktop without any strange hacked together setups, just logging into the Hangouts app. All these features are alive and well in Project Fi. I'm also finally able to use my Google number to send texts from my Android Wear watch which is absolutely fantastic, even though I feel this feature should have been available to me as a Google Voice user ever since they broke it with Android Lollipop.

Is it worth switching?

Maybe. If you typically use a lot of data and are okay with less than stellar customer service, then another provider might be a better option. For instance, my old plan on Cricket was $45/mo for 5GB of data. Using that same amount of data on Fi would cost me $70. However, if your data usage per month is pretty limited, then Fi is certainly a great way to get exceptionally cheap cell phone service that just works and rewards you for limiting your data use. It's got a few quirks, but it's generally been a great service. Google seems to have set up an actual carrier support system which absolutely beats any other MVNO I've used up to this point. The only thing that would make it better would to increase competitiveness with a lower per-gigabyte price.