Rumors of Google breaking into the wireless carrier game have been fodder for scoops, breathless reports and thinkpieces for years now, and for the longest time it looked like the search giant just couldn’t make it happen. Yesterday Google put all that to rest. Project Fi is finally here. Here is what you absolutely need to know about it.
Remember the Cloud-Based Phone Number
One of the more interesting features Google has created for Project Fi is a cloud-based number platform. This feature will enable users to use the same number with their tablets and other computers to send text messages and make phone calls from those devices. Mobile has changed, and Google’s support for a cloud number proves that.
The Biggest Limitation Is Device Compatibility
So, what’s the biggest limitation associated with Project Fi? Unfortunately, it’s device compatibility. For now, only Google’s Nexus 6 supports Project Fi. Google has promised that more devices will support Project Fi as time goes on, but for now, Project Fi is more like a beta-evaluation service and requires some fine-tuning before other devices will run on it.
Since customers who sign up with Project Fi will be Google customers, it’s nice to hear that the company will be providing 24/7 support. Customers who have an issue or question will be able to contact Google any time of any day and get an answer, Google says. While carriers have the same 24/7 customer support, there was some concerns that Google might not want to invest in such a thing.
The Pricing Plan Is Compelling
The pricing plan for Project Fi is arguably one of the most compelling features. For $20 per month, users fill get talk, texting, WiFi tethering and international coverage. Customers will then pay $10 per month for every 1GB of data access. Best of all, Google will provide credit to customers who are paying for a certain amount of data but don’t use it all in a month. So, if a user pays for, say, 3GB at $30 and only uses 1.4GB in a single month, Google will provide a $16 cash credit.
Google was quick to point out that there is full international support for Nexus 6 across more than 120 countries. The company says that it will apply the same data usage cost of $10 per GB per month when users are traveling abroad. However, Google will assess per-minute charges when placing calls over WiFi and cellular.
Where Fi goes now?
Interesting as Project Fi is, Google paints it as merely an experiment, not a direct assault on the mobile broadband business. This could just be diplomatic posturing—Google can’t really take an axe to wireless carriers when it’s relying on their networks—but it’s more likely that the company is trying to wield its influence indirectly.
Imagine, for instance, if Google could convince other carriers to support the cloud phone number, letting users access their calls and text messages through Google Hangouts on any device. To sweeten the deal, perhaps Google could even let carriers tap into the same network of Wi-Fi hotspots that Project Fi will use.
This isn’t as crazy as you might think. After all, Google’s Nexus phones work in similar fashion, demonstrating the benefits of pure Android to users and the industry. It’s taken a while, but phone makers are starting to get it. In time, maybe wireless carriers will as well.