Today, Google announced its much anticipated "Project Fi" wireless service that can seamlessly connect Wi-Fi and LTE networks with each other and where you pay for only as much data as you use. The service will connect to both T-mobile and Sprint networks and will switch between them depending on which is stronger in your area. It will also automatically connect with over one million open Wi-Fi hotspots that Google has checked for strong signal.
The main selling point for Project Fi is that unused data will be converted to dollar credit for the next month. Right now, the way the major carriers charge is by setting a fixed amount of data for a fixed amount of money, but even if you end up using only a third of that data, you'll still pay the same. With Project Fi, no unused data is wasted.
The pricing structure is as follows: First, you have to pay $20 for the "Fi Basics" package, which includes:
Unlimited domestic talk and textUnlimited international textsLow-cost international callsWi-Fi tetheringCoverage in 120+ countries
Then, for every gigabyte of data you pay $10; thus, it's $10 for 1 GB, $20 for 2 GB, and so on. Keep in mind that unused data is rolled over to the next month.
Another selling point of Project Fi is that the service will connect to the strongest signal, whether that's T-Mobile's LTE network, Sprint's LTE network or the one million open Wi-Fi hotspots. This should improve call quality for Sprint customers where, for example, the signal is not as strong as T-Mobile's in a given area (or vice versa).
It should also improve the bandwidth for data connections. When the two carriers' networks speeds aren't fast enough, a local Wi-Fi hotspot may be the better choice.
Open Wi-Fi hotspots can be used to siphon sensitive data from users who log into websites that aren't encrypted. Fortunately, Google will encrypt all open Wi-Fi connections with a "private tunnel," which is just another way of saying "VPN." This is a service Google has been rumored to offer with the launch of Project Fi.
Another feature that Google offers with Project Fi, and should be offered by all carriers (but isn't), is free tethering from your device. You can use your smartphone as a Wi-Fi hotspot for other devices, such as your laptop. Google will still charge for all consumed data, but it won't charge extra just for the privilege of using the phone's Wi-Fi hotspot feature.
Unlike with data plans from other carriers, there's no annual commitment to Project Wi-Fi. You can leave whenever you want, and there is no termination fee.
As tempting as Project Fi may sound, there are currently some serious limitations. The biggest is that the service only works on the Nexus 6 at present. It's the only device that comes with a special SIM that can connect to multiple networks at the same time, as well a "state-of-the-art" radio chip that can work with different network types.
Considering that Project Fi only works with Google's latest Nexus phone, it seems the company has chosen the wrong time to launch such an expensive device with the Nexus 6, which starts at $649 unlocked. Older Nexus devices cost closer to $350, which would be a more palatable sticker price for many users.
If you are one of the lucky few who owns a Nexus 6 and lives in the U.S., you can sign up for Google's Project Fi by requesting an invitation.