Google Fi is definitely one of the best mobile plans out there, offering easy-to-understand pricing, generous out-of-the-box data service, and the same $10 per GB data price in over 100 countries.
The service is only for US customers, but I ended up using Google Fi in my home country of South Africa for about two years. Here’s how it went.
Plans to scramble around the world before the pandemic
Hadley Simmons / Android Authority
I finished buying a Google Fi SIM and flexible data plan when attending CES 2020 just before the pandemic. The Flexible plan in particular charges $10 per GB until you reach the 6GB mark. You won’t be charged at all from now on, although you will be burdened with 3G speeds if you go over 15GB.
The Fi worked well during this trip, but I continued to use it in the days after I got home. Sure, I swapped the Fi SIM in my daily driver for my primary local SIM, but I still found a reason to keep the Fi line active.
Guide: The best phone packages for every type of user
My somewhat odd thinking was that since I had been traveling a few times a year for work up to that point, mainly to the US, it made sense to keep paying for Google Fi in anticipation of more trips. I also thought it would suffice as a secondary SIM to review the devices when you are at home. The previous solution made more sense to me than buying something like a T-Mobile SIM. After all, a T-Mobile SIM and local data plan would probably be cheaper but I could theoretically use Fi at home or elsewhere too.
My carrier charges $20,000 per GB while roaming. Google Fi charges $10.
It doesn’t hurt that roaming charges are ridiculous via my carrier. Check the screenshot below. This is R309 or $19.64 per 1MB. No, you didn’t read that wrong. That’s more than $20,000 – twenty thousand dollars – for one gigabyte.
Hadley Simmons / Android Authority
Another reason for me to use Fi outside of the US is that Google’s data rates weren’t that expensive compared to what local carriers charge for prepaid/out-of-contract data. Well, at least when it comes to the amount of data I use.
My own network charges the R85 (~$5.40) for 1GB of data out of contract, which is about half Google’s $10 per gigabyte but still quite expensive compared to other countries. However, I generally use a few hundred megabytes each month, and that’s where Google’s flexible plan is ahead of my carrier.
Google Fi’s pricing runs on an easy-to-understand scale, with 100MB set me back $1 compared to $1.21 with my carrier. The 260MB randomize costs $2.60 on Fi, but my carrier only offers fixed plans, so I’ll need to get the 350MB package for $2.93. The price difference between the two obviously works in Fi’s favor at the lower end of the spectrum, although Google does fall back significantly when it hits the gigabyte.
Two years of local Google Fi use
Unfortunately, the pandemic brought business trips to a standstill for the next couple of years, rendering my main plan on Google Fi pointless.
I stayed with Google Fi, though, mainly due to the aforementioned use of the SIM in the review units. The flexible nature of the plan made sense here, because I would only pay for data when I actually used it and wouldn’t use a lot of data anyway.
The flexible nature of Fi plans made sense for my low data usage.
This is the way it has been for about two years, believe it or not, as my Fi has worked for this entire period. However, Google finally (and understandably) suspended the use of my data in February 2022.
In case you didn’t know, Fi is primarily meant to be used in the US. However, this was a long time compared to else users On Reddit, with several suspensions reported after a few months (or even weeks) of using the service outside of the US. I think I’ve stayed under the radar due to my relatively limited data consumption – I’ve generally used less than 1GB of mobile data in most months.
For what it’s worth, Fi worked intermittently when I got back to the US in May, but moments of cellular connectivity were punctuated by long periods of offline. Google states that you need to use the service continuously in the US for 90 days for the ban to be lifted.
I eventually got my Google Fi suspended for a few months, and I’ll probably cancel it completely soon. It obviously doesn’t make sense to keep paying for the service when my mobile data is suspended. I already have another (inactive) SIM that I bought for future trips, but you have to be in the US to activate the service in the first place.
I’d pay a little extra for global Google Fi if it meant I could get one SIM and data that worked no matter the country.
Either way, since Google Fi is expensive compared to the local plan, I would like Google to bring the service to international markets. An international version of Fi is unlikely to adhere to current data tariffs, especially in countries where mobile data is initially expensive. But I don’t mind paying extra for the service if it means I have a SIM and data that works no matter what country.
next one: I tried to sign up for Pixel Pass, but it was too difficult