If you’re not sure how much data you usually use, don’t worry. There is a way to check. On Android phones, go to Settings > Network and > Internet, and you’ll see how much data you used last month. Faucet Use of app data to see which apps are using the most data, and you can also scroll through your data usage from previous months. On iPhones, you can see this by going to Settings > cellular data > mobiles. If you regularly use less than 3 GB of data per month, the flexible plan may be the best option for you.
All prices above are for a single line; they all decrease slightly per row as you add more. For example, I plan to add a second line to my Unlimited Plus plan soon, which will pay both lines $55 each, or $110 per month in total (plus taxes and fees).
Activate your chip
Once you’ve chosen your plan and signed up, Google will mail you a SIM card. It took a few days for mine to arrive, but I’ll gladly take the slight delay if it saves me setting foot in a physical shipping store. (If you’re using an iPhone or Google Pixel, you can set up Fi with an eSIM, which means you don’t have to wait for a physical card.)
Once your chip arrives, you will need to use a SIM tool to remove the SIM tray and insert the SIM card into your phone. Next, download the Google Fi app (you’ll need to be on Wi-Fi to do this because your chip won’t connect to the network yet), and follow the steps there. If you are porting in your old phone number, it may take a little longer. For me, after setting up a new number, Fi was up and running after about 5 minutes. That’s it, you’re done.
I’ve traveled and lived in rural areas for the past five years, and tried just about every hotspot phone and plan around – none of them are that easy. The only one that comes close is Red Pocket Mobile, which I always use in addition to Google Fi. (We’ve got more recommendations in our Best Cheap Phone Plans guide.) There are cheaper plans out there, but when it comes to ease of use and reliability, Fi is hard to beat.
Using Google Fi in a Hotspot
You can use Google Fi as an easy way to add cellular connectivity to any device that accepts a SIM card, like a mobile hotspot. You’ll need to activate your Google Fi SIM card with a phone using the Google Fi app, but once activation is complete, you can place this chip in any device your plan allows. If you opt for the Unlimited Plus plan, that means you can put your chip in an iPad, Android tablet, or 4G/5G hotspot. You’re still bound by the 50 gigabyte data limit, so make sure you don’t go too crazy with Netflix.
The easiest way to set up Google Fi in a hotspot is to order a data-only SIM card. This way, you don’t need to use your phone to activate the SIM card first. Otherwise, there doesn’t seem to be any difference between data-only SIM cards and regular SIM cards.
Your questions, answers
- Do I need a Google account? Yes, you need a Google Account to sign up for Google Fi, but you don’t have to be quite on Google to use Fi. I have an Android phone, and I use Google apps since that’s what we use here at WIRED, but outside of work I don’t use any Google services other than Fi, and it still works great.
- Does Google Fi track my every move? Yes, but your current provider is too. The Google Fi Terms of Service state that Google does not sell what is known as customer-proprietary network information, such as call location, details, and features you use, to anyone.
- I’m traveling and want to use Google Fi abroad. Will it work? Yes. Fi’s terms of service require you to activate your service in the US, but after that it should work anywhere Fi has partnered with a national network. The only possible catch is long-term travel. The TOS says that if you “use the Fi service primarily internationally, your international capabilities may be suspended.” There’s no official clarification on what constitutes “primarily”, but unofficially I know several people who have been outside the US for years using Fi and had no problems. Yet, as they say, your mileage may vary.
Tips and tricks
Several features are available through the Google Fi app that you might not discover at first. One of my favorites is an older Google Voice feature that lets you forward calls to any phone you want. This is also possible in Google Fi. All you have to do is add a number to Fi’s forwarding list, and every time you get a call it will ring both your cell phone and that secondary number, whether it’s a a home phone, a second cell phone or the Airbnb phone where you are. This is very handy in places where your signal strength is uncertain – just route the call to a landline. Also, it can be useful to enable the Wi-Fi calling feature for those times when you have access to Wi-Fi but not a cellular signal.
Another feature that is becoming more and more useful as the number of spam calls I receive increases more and more is call blocking. Android and iOS calling apps can block calls, but that just sends the caller straight to voicemail, and you still end up getting voicemail. Block a call through the Google Fi app and callers receive a message that your number has been disconnected or is no longer in service. As far as they know, you changed numbers. To set this up, open the Fi app and look under Phone settings for Spam and blocked numbers. Faucet Manage blocked numbers and then you can add any number you like to the list. If you change your mind, just remove the ad.
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