The Secret To A Better (& Cheaper!) Phone Connection

Photo: Courtesy Google.
Having a poor phone connection is just as bad as (if not worse than) not having a connection at all. Bad coverage can get in the way of sending a snap, text, or a timely email before getting on the subway, not to mention trying to make a call.

Google hopes that Project Fi will be the solution. The wireless network (the name is a nod to "Wi-Fi") launched in beta a year ago, but beginning last month, opened up to the public for widespread use.

The Basics

Here's what makes using it different from a typical carrier's cellular network: Project Fi automatically connects you to the fastest network, whether that's Wi-Fi or one of Google's two partners on the project, Sprint and T-Mobile. Most normal carriers only give you their service as an option for a network connection and require you to make the choice between using Wi-Fi and data.

The Cost

On top of that, with Fi, you'll only pay for exact amount of data that you use each month. If you use less than the data package that you purchased, you'll receive money back. The most basic plan starts at $20 per month, which includes unlimited calls and texts. On top of that, you tack on $10 per 1 GB of data you use. So, if you go with a 3 GB plan, you'll be paying $50 total and saving anywhere from $15 to $50 more than you would for some 3 GB plans offered by Verizon and AT&T — and that doesn't take into account money you'll get back if you don't end up using all 3 GB.

And if you travel internationally, there's even more good news: That data rate stays exactly the same in more than 120 countries.

The Reality

I put Project Fi to the test on the streets of New York and in my tiny apartment, which has terrible cell service. (Every time I phone home, some sort of "Can you hear me now?" situation takes place.) With Fi, I tried an experiment: I made calls from my personal phone (an iPhone connected to my carrier, Verizon) and, moments later, a test Nexus 5X phone that had the Fi SIM card activated.

The difference wasn't drastic, but the connection using Fi was better. There were no scratchy background noises or dips in service and I didn't have to feel like the Verizon pitchman at any point during the call. The internet connection was also very fast and connected to websites a full second or two faster.

When connected to my office Wi-Fi, Fi was also ever-so slightly speedier. As for the cellular network, I've never had a bad phone connection in-office, so there wasn't much of a difference when it came to calls.


The bad news is that Fi is currently only available on Nexus 6P, 5X, and 6 phones. So, if you're an iPhone user, you can't get your hands on it yet. Cue the sighs of frustration.

However, if you are looking at getting a new phone, the Fi-capable Nexus 5X and 6P are excellent. (You can check out our review, here.)


Ultimately, I'm still too attached to my iPhone to commit to a permanent switch that would allow me to use Project Fi. However, for those who are Android users already, looking for a cellular plan that won't charge you through the roof, frequent travelers, or who are so frustrated with the limitations of their carrier that they're willing to make a change, trying Fi on a Nexus phone is worth it.

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