Why You Should Use Google Fi as a Digital Nomad
Google Fi and Digital Nomads go together like rice and beans. It’s the only competitive plan currently on the market that offers consistent and impressive coverage in more than 200 countries around the globe for all your traveling needs. Google Fi (formerly Project Fi) debuted way back in 2015, offering a new intelligent solution for advanced network switching which in turn provided superior coverage.
Google Fi offers digital nomads a plan that costs $20 for unlimited text and voice with a unique pricing structure for their data. For every 1GB of data you use, you will pay $10 which is capped with bill protection for no more than $60/mo total for data. The combined cost for unlimited data, text and voice totals $80 per month assuming you’re using all of that data, otherwise data costs are strictly pay as you go.
Data will only begin to throttle after a whopping 15GB of use. Google Fi supported android phones can even act as a hotspot with no additional charge, providing a signal to all of your important connected devices.
I’m Roaming as a Digital Nomad, Will I Get Charged with Project Fi?
Roaming is covered in over 200 countries at a reasonable rate of 20 cents per minute for voice. Unlimited texting is available at no additional price in any Fi-covered destination. The data pricing is largely what makes the plan so attractive as it remains identical to domestic use which is $10 per GB and up to $60 (or 6GB) with bill pay features enabled, meaning you’re not paying more than $60 for extra data.
In addition Google Fi offers over 2 million secure Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide. You can read more about their international rates and covered countries here.
Data Only Sims on Google Fi for Digital Nomad Productivity
The service offers additional data sims which are shipped free of charge. Each sim is tied into the main plan so the billing for data will be reflected on your regular plan, including bill protection. Google has really worked to simplify the way the service works and has made it very easy to understand. These sims may be used in tablets, hotspots or other compatible devices.
You will want to check the connection specifications for the device you’re using to be sure it will work with the service. I have encountered many guides online for using Google Fi with various hotspots but they all seem to involve some technical work such as installing drivers and carefully selecting models, so do additional research as needed. For me the simple hotspot functionality works fine from my phone. You can read more about supported devices on Google’s support article.
What if a Local Plan is Better?
Google has integrated a unique feature called pausing within their app or on their website. You may access pausing and switch to a local plan at any time. During the pause you will still have to pay for device protection and financing if applicable.
SMS, MMS, Data and Voice will be suspended until you un-pause your service, which can be done intermittently if needed. This means if you’re without service on a local plan that you can simply un-pause for a day to get your business done. More details on how to pause and un-pause can be found on Google’s support article.
Can I Use Google Fi With My iPhone?
Absolutely. Google introduced official iPhone support in November of 2018 but has been used in an unsupported capacity on iOS devices prior to this date. Google offers an official Google Fi app on iOS and ample support documents regarding compatibility here. The service requires iPhones to be carrier unlocked and running iOS 11 or higher.
The iPhone must also be a 5S, 6, SE or newer to function on the service properly.
As Google is working to expand their support for iPhones there are a few caveats in using one. There is no calling or texting over WiFi, no data hotspot and no automatic network-switching at the time of this writing. Visual voicemail does not work as would be traditionally expected on iPhone. Instead visual voicemail can be accessed in the Google Fi iOS app. Additional APN changes need to be implemented by the user for connections to be established.
As a Digital Nomad the lack of network switching may be of concern to you when you enter into another country. Typically you will have luck with entering the phone into airplane mode and simply restarting the device. After the device is restarted, turn off airplane mode and it will connect to the local network if available. This is a simple process but it is one non-the-less. I personally hope that Google works with Apple in the future to bring us a Google Fi phone for the Apple enthusiasts among us.
Hangouts Integration for Google Fi
Google Fi can be integrated with Hangouts for making and receiving calls and texting through the app. This expands your options to answer and make calls to any device that supports Hangouts, such as your laptop computer or tablet. You may find additional details on connecting your current Hangouts setup with Google Fi here. Google Voice with Hangouts integration can be extremely useful for digital nomads. If you currently use Hangouts with Google Voice, read on for crucial info before initiating your Google Fi subscription.
I use Google Voice, Will That Work With Google Fi?
Unfortunately at this time Google requires either the migration of your Google Voice number from your account into Google Fi or for you to migrate a Google Voice number to another account entirely in order to keep Google Voice separate from Google Fi. Although Google Fi has a long list of Google Voice features and functionality you may want to retain your Google Voice service and number. You can do this by simply creating a secondary account for Google Fi. You may also migrate your Google Voice number to your new account as well.
If you migrate your existing number into Google Fi you will, of course, keep that number. You can always move your number back into Google Voice if you choose to leave the service. I personally recommend a dual account approach as Google Voice has many benefits that are currently not provided by the service. I have written more about why every digital nomad should have Google Voice Service if you’re curious as to the benefits of the service. You can read more about the why Google Voice will not work with Google Fi on this support article.
If both services are on separate accounts you will be able to use Google’s multi-account feature in Hangouts in order to retain Google Voice functionality in Hangouts along with your Google Fi service. You may also use the Google Voice app as well for your GV number.
Fi VPN Support For Travel
As an added bonus Google Fi has included VPN support when connected to any one of their 2 million WiFi hotspots. When connected to a WiFi hotspot VPN can be used to encrypt activity. Intelligent switching from WiFi to mobile also helps to eliminate call disruptions. The enhanced network may cause your data usage to go up by 10 percent due to encryption standards and possible slowdowns could occur. If you want to turn this function on it must be done manually in the Google Fi app.
VPN is extremely important for public WiFi networks from a security standpoint, so it’s good to see Google embracing this. For additional considerations on why VPN service is so important for digital nomads you may read my guide on VPN Service for a thorough breakdown.
Google Fi is the best service on the market for those living as a digital nomad, hands down. Other carriers with international features have many reports among users who have been deactivated for using their services in other countries for extended periods, which is unfortunate and a massive headache for those people involved.
Plans with Google Fi are reasonably priced for what they offer and will save you potentially hundreds of dollars when compared to other options domestically offered. As a digital nomad you may want to opt for a local plan instead of using Google Fi. Pausing as a functionality offers this without qualms as detailed above. For travel and the adventurers among us, there is simply nothing else that compares.
I hope this has helped you understand all of the advantages to this great service. Happy travels!