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Google Fi: Their new $20/month Worldwide Phone Service

Shot on Nexus 6 - you may start noticing nicer pictures on this blog from now on.

Shot on Nexus 6 – you may start noticing nicer pictures on this blog from now on.

If you’ve been around here for a while, you know that I have been a fan of Republic Wireless for several years now. Sneaking onto the scene in 2012, they quietly started offering a more-or-less Unlimited Everything smartphone plan for $19 per month while most of us were still forking over $50 to $100 for our service.

I joined their beta program as soon as they would let me in and I’ve been a happy customer ever since. I wrote about it more than once and thousands of this blog’s readers have become loyal customers since then. It’s almost a badge of membership, to whip out your Republic Moto X phone at a meetup of Mustachians to show you are the real deal.

Since then, the company has been upgrading technology, bringing in new phones and recently changed their plan structure to become even cheaper for the majority of users: $10 per month base price (unlimited talk and text) / with data as needed at $1.50 per 100 megabytes with no minimum charge (see Figure 1 for an example).

Republic's rate structure as of September 2015

Fig. 1: Republic’s rate structure as of September 2015

Despite the boiling competition in the US phone market (among dozens of companies known as Mobile Network Virtual Operators), the Republic setup has been a no-brainer and no other offer has tempted me to stray from my simple plan.

Until Now.

This year, rumors started circulating that Google itself was starting a phone service called Google Fi. I’m a long-time Google Fanboy and I get great life efficiency gains from their search, email, calendar, documents, photo, and map/navigation programs among others. So I had high expectations.

Although the $20 per month base price was double that of Republic Wireless, I found the specs tantalizing because the Google Phone service works virtually worldwide with no roaming charges. That is right – in 120 countries, you get seamless voice, text and data at the same price as you do in the US:

Google Fi Pricing:


• $20 per month for unlimited talk+ text
• $10 per Gigabyte ($1 per 100MB) data In Most Developed areas of the Earth
• And it includes Wi-Fi Tethering
(Update: they have now added a referral bonus system: you can use mine, or one from any of your Fi-using friends, for a $20 credit)

This sounded useful to me, since the Mustache family spends every summer in Canada, plus I end up in Central or South America at least once a year too. Longer stays in Europe, Australia and New Zealand are coming too, as my boy grows up and becomes more comfortable with the world outside our bubble. While my Republic service continues to work worldwide whenever there is Wi-fi, I have found the lack of true international cellular access to be quite limiting when planning complex adventures on the fly. When you add in tethering (the ability to broadcast my own private Internet Cafe) to allow me to work on the blog with a laptop in foreign lands or share data with friends, the appeal became even stronger.

At this point, you would be fully right to start playing your Mocking Violin of Consumer Justifications, then ask if I’d like a Bedpan and a Catheter to go along with this serving of Worldwide Data and Wi-fi tethering. It’s totally over-the top, and if I were living my true retired pre-Mr. Money Mustache-life, I’d be traveling less, floating in fewer business expense account dollars, and probably not upgrading to Google Fi at this point. Especially when you find out how much the phone cost me.

The Overly Fancy Google Phones

Like Republic Wireless, Google Fi keeps costs down (and flexibility up) by using a hybrid calling system: if you are out in the wild, the phone selects between Sprint, T-mobile, or international carrier networks as needed. But if you’re connected to a reliable Wi-Fi network, it routes all your calls and text seamlessly through the Internet instead. You don’t have to know what is going on in the background, but it means the phone needs some special capabilities and software to let this happen. This means that both Republic and Fi only work on selected phones.

When I first wrote this post in September 2015, Google Fi service was available on only one phone, a massive but powerful “phablet” called the Nexus 6. Then the phone options greatly improved – there was the standard-sized Nexus 5x and the bigger Nexus 6P, both absolutely top-of-the-line and worth giving up an iPhone for.

Unfortunately, both of these were discontinued as Google moved on to the insanely pricey Pixel and Pixel 2 models. As of November 2017, the best option is a used Nexus 5x from eBay ($150 or less), or the new Motorola G6 or x4 from the Google store ($200 and $250 respectively as of September 2018).

nexus_vs_moto_vs_iphone4

Nexus 6 vs. Moto X v1 vs. Antique iPhone 4 for scale, all with thin protective cases. All phones are equidistant from the camera, so the Nexus is indeed way bigger. But Look how many icons and fancy things I can fit on my homescreen now! Note that my hands are on the XL side, so it might be a two-hands phone for less lanky readers.

The original Nexus 6 was my biggest reservation about adopting the service back when the Nexus 6 was the only option, because I have some manly insecurities about public displays of technology. I like my phone functional, but minimalist and tough. My phone spends most of its days walking around in a tattered pair of construction pants experiencing heat, pressure and sawdust. In the winter it might be squeezed into some snowboard pants next to a Ziploc of almonds and sliced cheese. I drop it on concrete floors occasionally. I attempt to take selfie videos while mountain biking. And I try to take incognito photos of jam bands through the cloud of Marijuana smoke that hangs over the busy crowd of fellow revelers. None of these activities seem to pair nicely with a $350 telephone that sports a massive, bright 6″ screen with 2560×1440 resolution. I was worried that cooler men would make fun of me if I whipped out a big toy like this in public.

But in real life, it’s not so bad. My initial horror at the size of the phone upon opening the box quickly faded, and I noticed that it is definitely more useful for reading long emails, books and websites. The clarity and color of the screen is somewhat astonishing, as is the quality of photos and videos the camera can produce. It has stereo speakers that are actually good enough to get a few friends dancing in your hotel room in a pinch. It also has long life battery and a multi-mode charger that can fill the big battery much more quickly than normal, ideal for a rapid boost during a day of travel.  It’s powerful enough that I will now start leaving my laptop behind for most trips. And it still fits easily in my pocket.

With a few adjustments to daily life (I stash the phone in a backpack instead of my pocket when doing a harsh day of construction), it works fine for me after all. And for those with office jobs, it is even more compatible.

But How Much Will the Data Cost Me?

The first question I had when moving away from a plan with ‘unlimited’ data, is how much the new setup will cost in typical use. The easiest way to check was to look at my data use on the Republic plan during early August, which was a time of extensive travel for me. Both Google Fi and Republic make this really easy with their respective built-in apps:

data_usage

My Republic data use in August (left) vs. Google (right) data use over the past week. My peak month in the past year was about 320MB.

For those who use more, your optimum choice will vary because of the different rates of the two carriers.

 

rates_with_data

Due to Google’s cheaper data rates, they break even with Republic around the 2GB/month data usage level.

How to Cut YourData Use

data-adjustIf you find you’re using much more than me, it might be due to apps stealing some of your data in the background rather than stuff you’re actually doing yourself. If you look at Settings -> Data Usage, you’ll see a breakdown of how much data each application consumed. Then you can decide to nuke or restrict any apps that you don’t think should be using data while the phone sits in your pocket.

For example, on my phone I tapped each app in the list and found that the Chrome web browser was using some foreground data as expected, but the Engage energy monitor app was also sucking up mobile data in the background, which is not acceptable to me – I don’t need information on my home’s energy consumption while the phone is sleeping in my pocket. So checked the “restrict background data” option for that app. Facebook, YouTube, Pandora, Skype and other audio/video intense programs may consume a lot of data. At today’s data prices, you can afford to be sloppy, but if you are burning multiple gigs per month, it is worth optimizing.

Scary Data Epilogue: The day after typing that paragraph, I went to the grocery store and found the phone annoyingly trying to connect to the store’s network, so I disabled WiFi. Then I went home, made lunch, and watched a useful Ted talk and a pointless rap video on YouTube as I ate. Forgetting to re-enable WiFi first. This immediately burned 482 MB, which is equal two months of normal data consumption, or $4.82, or a pint of good beer at the new Wibby brewery. Oops! Just like money, data can easily fly out the window while delivering little or no life benefit.

So What is Mr. Money Mustache’s Final Choice?

For my own life as a recovering computer nerd who also maintains this fairly active blog, the greater worldwide connectivity,  and fancier phone make it worth the extra cost of switching to Google Fi. So it’s a keeper. If you need more money in your pocket more than you need data during international travel, however, Republic is probably a wiser choice, because both the phones and plans are cheaper. For ultimate frugality, you can even buy a used Republic-compatible Moto X from ebay for under $100.

Mrs. Money Mustache, however, plans to keep her Republic Wireless service as always. She can just inherit my Moto X phone as an upgrade from her Moto G. In fact, when traveling together her phone can simply use mine as a Wi-Fi hotspot so both will continue to function internationally. We may even pass the Moto G along to Junior MM for use as a music player and camera, perhaps activating it at some point so he can keep in touch with us and with his friends as he becomes more independent. At a base price of $10 per month, getting phones to allow you to keep a leash on kids no longer seems like an exorbitant thing to do.

If you’re interested in checking out Republic Wireless plans, you can do so here.

(Note: This blog is still a happy Republic affiliate and I also used Amazon affiliate links in keeping with my Affiliate Policy. )

So if you’re still paying $30+ for a phone of any type, get with the program!

—–

 

Footnotes and FAQ:

“I live in Canada (or another country).. Can I just get one of these and use it instead of my own country’s inferior phone options?”

Technically it could work. You’d need a US billing/shipping address to set up the service, but once you have it established everything is done online. However you’d have a phone number that would be billed as “international” if your friends called you, and you would still have to pay international rates to make local calls (20 cents/minute for calls from Canada to Canada, for example). See traveling rates here. SMS remains free, but data speeds may be limited to lower rates as well.

Extra Data Simsin December 2015, Google added a cool “free extra data devices” feature: they will ship you extra SIMs you can pop into compatible laptops and tablets (like the Nexus 9) to share the metered $10/GB data that comes with your plan. This could be useful for sharing the affordable data love to family members in other countries. More details here.

“How’s the Reception and Sound Quality?”

Great as far as I can tell. Still got data in some pretty remote mountain valleys, plus wi-fi calling means both of these phone options are REALLY solid even inside heavy structures with metal roofs like my house, or a basement computer lab where you might not normally get a signal. The Nexus 6 in particular has some beefy voice processing hardware (and 4 microphones!) which may be helping improve call clarity.

“How is the International Service in Practice – do you actually get reception?

Update: I took this phone to Ecuador in October 2015, and found slightly flaky but still very useful performance. Landing in Quito I saw “no service”, but rebooted the phone and it reawakened with full voice and data signal.

This signal remained usable along the winding mountain highways, and in the towns of Mindo and San Miguel de Los Bancos. However there was no reception visible at my resort.. except one time when I had full voice signal (no data) and made a few phone calls. It intuitively feels to me like a software problem rather than a cell reception (analog) problem, which means Google may be able to make it reliable with future releases. I’ll update you on the Canadian situation after my next trip there. But already, it was astounding to be able to use my phone in South America, accruing a grand total of $1.70 of data charges for my 0.17GB of use.

Google Voice Users: If you have an existing Google Voice account, the Fi service will want to take that over as the real phone number for this phone, or else make you give up your old Google Voice number in favor of whatever number you choose to use with Fi. (You can port in an existing number, or generate a new one.)

I’m not sure exactly why this restriction exists, but I happily embraced the Fi as my new Google Phone, as the other features like multi-phone call forwarding continue to work. Another alternative would be to create a second Gmail account to associate with the phone and a different phone number, so it doesn’t know about your main Google Voice account.

Republic Tethering Update: In early December, Republic announced new support for tethering on all their standard “Republic Refund” plans. You simply pay for any extra data you use at their usual $15/GB rate.

“Why are you mentioning Republic again when you wrote about them last year?”

Long-time readers of the blog often feel that we’re all old-timers and thus should not repeat stories too much. But from my end the stats screens tell a different story: due to churn and growth, over half of readers are generally new within the last 6 months. The biggest things people seem to mention to me in their financial recovery stories are ditching bank-financed gas guzzlers,  starting to ride bikes, and switching to Republic. So besides sharing my excitement over Google Fi with fellow tech geeks, this post is meant to introduce the newest 50% to ten-dollar smartphone service via Republic.

Republic may be slightly bummed that I left them, but if they happen to read this I offer the following suggestions: add Wi-fi tethering to your service ASAP (now done – nice work guys!). Then start thinking about international, maybe starting with Canada and Mexico if it’s easier. Competition does not stay still and good luck!

 

  • Acroy September 21, 2015, 12:06 pm

    “Financial Freedom through badassity”
    Mr. MM spending as much on PHONE as on ELECTRIC for his house?! the horror!!
    This borders on face-punch worthy, c’mon MMM, you’re better than this; that is one embarrassingly fancy phone!

    Reply
  • Chase September 21, 2015, 12:15 pm

    Long time Republic customer. Glad to see more disruption and competition in the cell market. Competition from Google’s Fiber has already pushed the telecoms in my area to start rolling out their own fiber.

    Were going to see additional disruption in communications when Elon starts launching his internet satellites (4000 of them): http://www.iflscience.com/space/elon-musk-plans-launching-4000-internet-satellites

    Reply
  • The Big G Express September 21, 2015, 12:16 pm

    The no-brainer is Cricket(AT&T network): https://www.cricketwireless.com/5for100

    Reply
  • Tom September 21, 2015, 12:22 pm

    Agree, RW needs to add Wi-Fi tethering if they want to be relevant. Only reason I haven’t signed up with them is high cost for phones + no tethering. Nexus 6 looks beautiful!

    Reply
  • Anthony September 21, 2015, 12:28 pm

    I pay $50 a month for unlimited data and unlimited talk and text. I have an old Sprint plan that I got grandfathered into. It used to be $30 a month but they’ve added on charges for “premium” phones and 4G data. It still is an amazing bargain. I’ve used 71.6 GB of data in my current billing period. That would cost a ridiculous amount on any other plan ($700?)

    When I got married, I found someone with the same plan online who didn’t want it anymore and had a transfer of liability to my account, since only my type of account could have that kind of plan. We now pay $100 a month + tax (a comes out to about $112) for two phones with unlimited data, text, and calling.

    Reply
  • Sam September 21, 2015, 12:46 pm

    I guess something like this would be quite handy about 20 years ago when computers were not so common, but I have found that these days that there are computers everywhere I go. I don’t have to be able to get onto the internet AT ALL TIMES so I just wait a few minutes until I am at a place with one. There are computers at home, at work, at friends houses and there is always an internet cafe around for an emergancy.
    I find it cheaper to have a normal basic nokia cellphone which has almost no value, can be used to open beer bottles, can be dropped from heights without any problems, has a battery life of several weeks and only costs $8NZD ($5USD) a month for all the talking and text messages I can use.
    That extra money can be used to buy useful tools, building supplies, pay off the mortgage etc.
    I just don’t see the need to be some super fancy guy and be on the internet always. You could spend the time when ‘offline’ to do some useful thinking or something along those lines.

    Reply
    • Walker September 23, 2015, 9:27 am

      Sam,
      Thanks for the reality check! MMM is, by admission, semi-employed as a successful blogger. He’s probably in a small minority of folks with a valid business justification for such a fancy pants communication device. For me, as an attorney/soldier/landlord, I justify the expense as necessary to achieve personal efficiency. But even I question whether it’s true. . .

      Step one for those considering Google vs Republic is this: honestly consider whether you’d be better off with a flip phone, a landline, or even… No phone at all.

      Reply
    • Ann September 23, 2015, 4:58 pm

      Who do you have your plan with? My husband is still using a flip phone, but is paying $40 + fees (ends up being $50)/mo for no texting, no data. My Republic Wireless phone has a lot more services for half the price…

      Reply
      • Sam September 23, 2015, 11:32 pm

        I am with 2degrees in New Zealand. I am on prepay and you buy an $8 value pack which gives you 60 minutes of calling and 250 text messages and it rolls over to the next month if you don’t use it all. Seeing as I usually just talk to people in real life I don’t need to make so many phone calls so there is no way to use up an entire 60 minutes. When at home I just use the land line.

        Reply
  • Toddius September 21, 2015, 1:07 pm

    Mr. MM,
    This seems like a great thing for someone who travels a lot, and I really appreciate that you’ve posted about this and am seriously considering it. My wife and I are planning an extended road trip in South America and this seems like the perfect thing. We can keep in touch with folks back home like we never left.

    After doing some looking into this a bit more I have one comment. You have to consider the cost to call when you are out of the US (https://fi.google.com/about/rates/). Sure, the data is worldwide at $10/GB and non-wifi texting is unlimited, but non-wifi outgoing calling when you are out of the US costs $0.20 a min (although incoming is free). 20 cents/min is pretty extreme for normal calling. With family and friends this is something you can work around by having them call you from a text or maybe with skype, but if you want to conduct business while abroad this would be expensive. So sure it is worldwide if you don’t call unless you have wifi.

    Discussing the costs of calling when out of the US and maybe some work arounds are probably something that should be discussed in your post.

    Thank you again for the great post.

    Todd

    Reply
  • Bob September 21, 2015, 2:11 pm

    You might want to check out Tasker or a similar automation app to ensure that your WiFi is on when you get home automatically. I’ve found it helpful to manage WiFi and VPN connections with Fi.

    Reply
  • Justin September 21, 2015, 2:24 pm

    MMM – do you have any advice for streaming music? I use Spotify when I run/exercise, it eats so much data, maybe there is a better way? Luxury, I guess, but listening to music while I work out is therapeutic and enhances the experience for me. But streaming 45-60 mins at at time, several times a week. It gets to be quite a lot of data usage! Any ideas from you or readers?

    Reply
    • Anonymous September 22, 2015, 1:00 am

      Several possibilities.

      If you want to keep using Spotify streaming, see MMM’s articles on free-weight exercise, which would allow you to work out at home, where you presumably have wifi. Or, if you use a gym, look for one with wifi.

      There’s also quite a bit of free music out there that you could download; I find that game soundtracks and remixes work nicely.

      You might also try the script “youtube-dl”, which downloads videos from YouTube; it has an option –extract-audio to just download the music. Grab days worth of music while you’re at home, and load it on your phone. Personally, I rather like the band “Two Steps from Hell” as an accompaniment to working, or pretty much anything else.

      Reply
    • Rosie October 6, 2015, 4:46 pm

      Why do you need to stream music on a smart phone, out of curiosity? My old ipod nano sure does the trick for musical workout sessions (I MUST workout with music). You have to deal with the black hole that is itunes, of course, but maybe it would be worth going old school if you’re eating up too much data?

      Reply
  • Michael Keel September 21, 2015, 2:30 pm

    My wife and I switched to the Republic plans about 10 months ago.
    She is on the 10. per month and I am on the 25.00 our bill is about 43.00
    We live and work in NYC and have great service all around NY.
    No problems with it. i am using the Moto X 2014 and it is an awesome phone
    with a great camera. I compared it with my daughters iphone 6 and the
    photos are pretty much the same. I am a professional photographer so I a
    am pretty sensitive the photo quality. Voice quality has been great.
    On occasion I get dropped calls but no more than I did with AT&T or T-Mobile.

    Reply
  • EcoCatLady September 21, 2015, 5:41 pm

    Well, I recently bought my first smartphone ever – and my conclusion is that the right phone & plan are highly variable depending on how you intend to use the thing. I went with the Motorola Moto G because it had the best camera in the price range. And for service I went with Ting. Ting costs $6/month per phone, and then you pay for minutes/texts/data in $3 blocks as you use it. Wi-fi is free, of course. Since I don’t use the phone for anything but emergencies, and since I couldn’t send a text if my life depended on it, this plan made the most sense for me. It gives me a decent camera that’s easy to carry on my bike – plus it’s really easy to upload photos to my blog or whatever. Most months I’ll probably only pay the $6, but on occasion that I need to use the phone or data services, I’ll be happy to pay the $3 for the privilege of doing so. And if the earth shifts on its axis and I end up actually going on a trip or something and need to use it a lot – I’ll only pay the extra cost for that one month when I actually do need to use it.

    Reply
  • SteveC September 21, 2015, 5:48 pm

    I love that the wireless market is so competitive, it seems like as long as you own your phone there is always a good deal to be had.

    I am still happy with T-Mobile for now. Its a pricier plan but we managed to a get 2 lines with unlimited 4G LTE data for $100 per month, owning our phones of course. I’ve always hatted the concept of data caps so its nice not to have to worry about if I remembered to turn on wifi.

    Reply
  • 13 months in ecuador September 21, 2015, 6:05 pm

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for continuing to look at phone options, especially while continuing to be satisfied with Republic Wireless. The phone biz will probably continue to change a bunch over the years to come, and it is good to know that you will continue to look at the options with an objective view. This can be a huge waste of money and good to keep on the front burner.

    The new google plan will work great for us, because it includes the international calling. We are living in Ecuador for the next 13 months and are using those rechargeable minutes which i don’t mind, but we don’t use any data. Looking forward to getting that plan when we return. 13monthsecuador.blogspot.com.

    Reply
  • Fuzz September 21, 2015, 6:10 pm

    I’m curious how it works when there isn’t a Sprint or T-mo tower.

    A lot of the MVNOs don’t have the same reciprocity agreements that their source companies have. So I had Airvoice, which uses AT&T towers. When I went out in the rural areas, I wouldn’t have data or voice or anything. That’s because there are only Union Wireless towers in my particular state. AT&T would transfer its own subscribers to Union Wireless, but it would not transfer the Airvoice subscribers. So I got screwed. Also AT&Ts pay as you go plan is pretty reasonable $40/mo for 2 gigs, plus best service in my area.

    How would the phone work if there aren’t Sprint or T-Mo towers? Would it transfer you to a regional or not?

    Reply
  • FrugalSaver September 21, 2015, 7:12 pm

    It seems like, if you’re a rather large consumer of data and don’t travel outside the US frequently, this doesn’t really do much for you cost-wise. I can get 5GB of data and unlimited talk and text for $45 from Cricket.

    What am I missing?

    If I wanted to curtail my non-WiFi usage, then maybe I could save $10 or $15 a month maybe.

    Reply
  • dave September 21, 2015, 7:34 pm

    This could be one of those fake blogs like when MMM pretending he liked big SUV’s. No way a real moustachian would buy a top of the line cell phone.

    Reply
    • Anonymous September 22, 2015, 12:54 am

      I do find it a bit surprising that MMM bought it new, even from Amazon, rather than used.

      Reply
  • Max Bramel September 21, 2015, 8:18 pm

    FWIW, RW has indicated that tethering is a feature that they have on their radar for implementation. No indication of just when, of course, so I wouldn’t anticipate it any time soon. Glad that Fi has it; should place a little competitive pressure on RW.

    Reply
  • Anonymous September 22, 2015, 12:53 am

    It’s nice to see that Republic Wireless has moved from the “unlimited with a heaping helping of guilt trip if you use cell data” model to the “pay for cell data” mode.

    In addition to the cost advantage for Fi if you use more data, Fi also seems to have significantly better connectivity due to the networks they partner with.

    It seems highly likely that they’ll expand to other phones in the future, beyond the Nexus 6, as they expand past the current test group.

    Reply
  • MrMoogle September 22, 2015, 6:17 am

    I use P’Tel, I spend $5/month, and my smart phone cost $30. Although I don’t make that many phone calls, send many texts, or use much data (outside Wi-Fi), or even use my phone that often.

    That said, if I hadn’t already broken my phone addiction, this seems like a great step in the right direction.

    Reply
  • Joel Albino September 22, 2015, 7:59 am

    I was on ATT a few years ago, paying anywhere from $85-$100/mo. Crazy! While my plan is not as low as most people here I went to MetroPCS and have been very happy. A big game changer was when my office moved into a basement location and there was no service. I purchased a TMO Galaxy S4 for $100, threw a new ROM on the device and the WIFI calling has saved my butt! It is such a powerful feature I can’t believe I never capitalized on it before (Granted Google Fi also uses this).

    I am ashamed to say I currently have their $50 plan but I could probably make do on the $40. I know if you go in with a family plan (as my friend did) you can get the bill down to $25/person.

    Reply
  • Jeff September 22, 2015, 10:28 am

    I would love to have the tethering and international features, but the phone is too big, and the plan is more expensive than republic. So I’ll keep rocking the Moto X v1 for now.

    Reply
  • Savezeus September 22, 2015, 10:30 am

    I’m also on the T-Mobile prepaid $30 a month plan. I left Sprint years ago due to their poor coverage in central California & refuse to use any company who relies on their network. $30 flat is what I pay with no additional fees or taxes. The 100 minutes of talk time is limiting but I save my minutes by using Apple face time audio when making calls to other iPhone users. When I need to call other countries or non-Apple phones I use a third party VoIP app like Boss revolution, 1.7¢ for calls to Mexico. Using VoIP will use your data but you have 5 gb and even if you go over this limit your apple FaceTime audio calls will still sound crystal clear. I’m sure you could do the same on any android phone.

    Since its prepaid account you can often find prepaid cards selling at a discount on eBay, sometimes for half price. So the $30 monthly plan drops down to around $16.

    Reply
  • Jeffrey Barkstrom September 22, 2015, 10:47 am

    Is anyone using Total Wireless? It seems to fit for our family.

    Reply
  • Michel September 22, 2015, 10:59 am

    > “I live in Canada (or another country).. Can I just get one of these and use it instead of my own country’s inferior phone options?”

    > Technically I bet it would work. You’d need a US billing/shipping address to set up the service, but once you have it established everything is done online.

    You would be limited by 2G data though which is less than ideal.

    Reply
  • Kelly Sangree September 22, 2015, 1:44 pm

    What are the mustachio-d thoughts on Freedom Pop phones? I thought they looked a little shady when I first researched them a year ago, but they seem like they are now more up front with their fees. Apparently for a year of unlimited talk/text and 500mb of data a month, it’s roughly $80. Anyone deal with them?

    Reply
  • Val September 22, 2015, 3:13 pm

    I’ve been a Republic Wireless customer for almost 3 years and they started out awesome but now I find that their call quality is not as good. It could also be related to the fact that I’ve moved from Denver to the L.A. area and maybe the reception is just worse out here (strange, but possible I guess). I like Project Fi’s $20/month price, but the “Unlimited Worldwide Service” not as really what it sounds like. After reading the info on their site. I found that calling internationally is not included in the price, and the “unlimited international” is only based on traveling and being able to make unlimited calls back to the the US. I regularly call Malaysia from the US and the 2 cents and 3 cents per minute rates through Fi are very steep, vs. being FREE through WhatsApp or Viber. The other thing that bothers me is what does one do with a pretty expensive Moto X phone ($300) if you don’t have anyone in the family to pass it on to? My husband and I both have Moto X and that’s $600 in phones that we’re going to have to hopefully be able to sell if we switch to Project Fi.

    Reply
  • Nate M September 23, 2015, 3:51 am

    I’ve been using KnowRoaming (https://knowroaming.com/) for about a year. It always works well for phone calls (local rates). SMS is often a bit wonky, but data is fast and reliable. The data cost is higher, generally 0.10 US per MB, but there’s no monthly cost, so you only pay for what you use. It autodetects when you are off your home network and switches. I’ve probably used it for a total of 8 weeks in the last year, and I think I’ll stay with it. (that, and I live outside the US, so being permanently throttled wouldn’t be much fun, though I use so little data I might not notice) . Anyway, for light data users its another good option.

    Reply
  • Dean September 23, 2015, 8:01 am

    I’ve recently bought an LG G3 (replacing an iPhone 5). It does pretty much anything that an iPhone 6 plus can do at under half the price. Last-gen Android flagships are often pretty decent value.

    Mobile service is dirt cheap nowadays. I can get unlimited calls and texts plans with a gigabyte or two of data for about 30 Australian dollars a month ($21US), even with some of the major carriers.

    Reply
  • The Vigilante September 23, 2015, 8:46 am

    Moto X? I have a Moto E, sucka! Face-punch!

    That said, I may end up embracing Google Fi (or upgrading my phone with Republic) sometime soon. I will be starting a new job in under two weeks, and I will potentially be required to use more data as part of the job. A data plan and a phone that is 4G capable may finally be in order.

    Reply
  • Joe September 23, 2015, 11:22 am

    Love the Blog post. I joined republic because of Verizon terminating my old $10/month Lifetime contract after only 10 years and then reading your post:|. I will stick with republic but there is one thing that drives me slightly crazy and I would warn others of. My network at work is not suitable for phone calls. Unfortunately the republic app thinks it is. This leads me to HATE being at work with my cellphone as I can’t disable calling over this and even initiating calling over that and transferring to Cell doesn’t work. . I don’t use it much while I’m working so who cares. I can disable wifi but then I don’t get data because I have the cheap plan with no data. I’d assume the google FI has the same problem but if you read this post can you see if you can disable individual networks for phone calls and not just have the system determine which ones are unsuitable?

    Reply
  • Jim September 23, 2015, 1:24 pm

    I live near a City that will soon be offering google fiber and I am hoping google fiber eventually reaches my suburb. Not for the 1G $70 per month high speed service, but rather for the FREE 7 YEAR 5MBP service they offer, which does cost $300 for the install, which can be paid over 12 months with 0% interest.

    Of course, google fiber may not reach my suburb, but I am closer than most to realizing this dream of free WIFI.

    Reply
  • Richard Thomas September 23, 2015, 3:46 pm

    Hi MMM! Have you received the Fi care package yet? It probably gets sent out after the first month of service; mine just got here. Unless they’re not sending it to everybody, you’re in for a treat! That said, my feelings about the service are mixed so far, probably because I am a pretty heavy power user from playing a game called Ingress. I find the network switching to be pretty laggy at times, and Fi will connect to wifi services that are intolerably slow (I don’t think it does a speed check first), so I’m back to switching wifi off when I leave my house and on again when I get to work, and vice versa. But it’s hard to argue with the price!

    Reply
  • asar September 24, 2015, 1:25 am

    If you really travel, Google Fi has the worst connection in US. Outside of major towns/freeways, there is very little connection on T-mobile/Sprint. The cheapest reliable network (AT&T) plan that I have found is Cricket family plan with 5 people: $20 per month for unlimited talk/text and 2.5 GB 4G data! If you don’t really use the phone much outside wifi networks, the cheapest is H2O mobile. My wife spent $10 in 3 months!

    Reply
  • Genevieve Hawkins September 24, 2015, 11:20 am

    I loved Republic but had to leave them after my two year old dropped the Moto G in the swimming pool. At her age and considering she loves to listen to Youtube music videos on the smart phone, I could not consider a $500 irreplaceable Google Fi. She can burn through 1 gig of data with an hour of Katie Perry music videos, so that’s not that much data for that cheap of a price to me!
    I don’t have much need for a mobile phone at all when I am in Las Vegas–I might talk 20 minutes per month on it and the kid can hang out on our home wifi network. So my $30 per month Metro PCS is ridiculously expensive to me. So my two caveats for this new phone are 1: If you have any reason to suspect that you will regularly need a replacement phone (because of two year olds, forgetfullness, or drunken nights on the town) it might not be worth it. Spending $500 2 or 3 times a year is a pretty big chunk. 2: Really know your data usage and how it changes say when you’re travelling. I prefer and unlocked phone hooked into Skype or WaveIP when I’m around the house but talk about kinks!

    Reply
  • Kendall Frederick September 24, 2015, 1:38 pm

    Very timely post, and I’m already thinking about switching. I will do some reading on a few things (does Google throttle roaming data? How’s cell coverage in the Spanish mountains where I like to ride? Malaysia? The Canadian Rockies? Does the Nexus 6 have all of the frequency band and coding options for international carriers?)

    I am a RW customer, and have been very happy with the service. I do travel internationally quite often. I love being able to call home and be called on Wi-Fi from anywhere in the world as a local call without separate apps or different phone numbers; that is one of the best features of RW abroad.

    I’m a cyclist and bring a bike while traveling, so I’m often out of wi-fi range. I like to use Google Maps for navigation, finding businesses, etc., and was considering getting a separate “world phone” that I could buy SIM cards for on trips. On a recent trip to Malaysia I borrowed an older Android phone from a local and bought prepaid cards, then carried both phones. It worked, but was awkward.

    Sounds like the Google phone will have the “local calls on Wi-Fi” plus cell coverage, plus native Android support, without a customized phone that’s usable on only one carrier (another drawback of RW). Might be a winner!

    Reply
  • kate September 24, 2015, 8:06 pm

    In my rural area it Fi is 2G only – any one using this with 2G if so what is the call quality?
    I realize it will not be useful for web browsing or Skype but if the calls are clear that is enough.
    Republic had a great idea but they never had service at all in my town in rural New Hampshire.

    Reply
  • Butler Reynolds September 25, 2015, 9:07 am

    I’m glad to see that Google is going to shake things up. I hope they are able to make a difference with their fiber service soon.

    I have been using Republic Wireless for about a year now. I love it, especially the bill.

    I’m going to stick with Republic. Since I have two cats and three kids, I’m a prisoner in a cell of my own making. No travel for me! :-(

    Reply
  • Kaity September 25, 2015, 10:56 am

    Do any of you Cricket fans live in Portland? How is the coverage there?

    Reply
  • TomTX September 26, 2015, 7:59 am

    Before dropping money on a new phone: Everyone should be aware that new versions of the Nexus 6 and Nexus 5 are launching in a few days. Widespread availability is expected mid-October. I suspect this is the reason the Nexus 6 is $150 cheaper now on Amazon.

    Reply
  • Amy September 26, 2015, 9:14 am

    For some reason this post hasn’t shown up on the “All-the-posts-since-the-beginning-of-time”
    page. FYI.

    Reply
  • Dan September 26, 2015, 12:17 pm

    I work in Adtech and if you think mobile data consumption has gotten ridiculous; you’re right. Most major web publishers have had to go to extraordinary lengths to keep the lights on, which involves stuffing more ads, and commonly “showing” ads that people can’t actually see so that they can maximize their revenue per page view. Most consumers don’t realize how much data this actually eats on their wireless plan.
    I recommend using the google browser caching feature and using an ad blocker to see how much data it actually takes to get by on a monthly basis. You’ll be shocked at how little data you actually need to browse the web when all the tracking and advertising targeting features are blocked.

    Reply
  • Mikael September 27, 2015, 1:48 pm

    As for the comments about forgetting to turn on/turn off wifi, I’d like to mention that there are apps that can do that automatically for you, as you leave home or get back home.

    The app I use is called Llama, and works by keeping tabs on which cell towers (or wifi networks, if wifi is on) it sees (it polls every few minutes, which your phone would do anyway), and associates *this* selection of towers as being “at home”, while *that* selection of towers is associated with “work”, and so on, and otherwise we’re “elsewhere”.
    Yes, there is a little bit of setting it up – essentially telling the app “I’m at home now” and “I’m at work now”, and what actions the app should take based on that information (turn on/off wifi, turn on/off sounds, increase/decrease volume …)

    Reply
  • Mike September 28, 2015, 7:55 am

    MMM, wouldn’t it be more badass to get something like P-Tel, and give up (or at least dramatically cut) data usage?

    After moving from Canada to the US in 2013, my wife and I got Nexus 4’s and T-Mobile $30 plan. Felt good about ourselves because we were saving spending like $40/month more than the avg consumer sukka.

    Found IPDaily and learned about P-Tel (TMobile reseller) this summer and found out we’re still spending about 6x more than we could at $60/month.

    Switched to P-Tel this summer and now pay ~ $5/month. For my wife and I that’s a savings of about $8,750 over 10 years.

    Changes I made:
    1. Turned off data usage, only turn it on when I need it (more on this later).

    Small alterations:
    1. Still listen to Podcasts in the car. Use Stitcher and download before listening. Gave up my favorite Leafs podcast which I can’t download and listen later (OK because they are planning to be terrible in the immediate future)
    2. Still use Runkeeper to track early morning runs. Works fine with no data.

    That’s it! Most of my 4GB average data use was Google automatically backing up photos and mysterious Android Operating system usage. Initially tried only limiting particular apps, but you can’t turn the OS off data data and Android uses a lot of data. Don’t know what it’s doing, nothing noticeable after having data off for a month.

    So, we save ~$50 a month (with at $10 start up fee) with almost no changes to our lives. Cost is actually less, because I bought us each $100 of “time” using 25% discount codes. This means we’re really only paying $7.50 / month for 2 phones. Not sure if the 25% discount is sustainable, so I don’t use it in my calculations.

    Reply
  • Ms.b September 29, 2015, 12:38 pm

    I want to add a dissenting voice to the republic love…

    I have never, ever in my life… come to loathe a service I am paying more than Republic Wireless. I gleefully opened up my shiny new MOTO X (good as an Iphone! Nice, solid, feel and great camera!) and fired up my new cheap service.
    And then… it got worse and worse and worse… What are the limitations of this plan, you ask? Are they worth the dollars saved? Depends. Do you want to make calls that go through? Do you mind having calls seemingly just not go and then mysteriously dial five minutes later, allowing people to be irritated and possibly hear random conversations? Do you want to blow a phone interview because your cell drops two calls and then continually calls the person while you are on the line? How about picture messages that will NOT go through at random times?

    And because the deal doesn’t end there, folks, if you call today, you also get…
    A service that you blithely count on while out and about, then realize that because some random internet connection that really doesn’t work (not even a bar showing folks, just a dot?) the phone has been not getting anything through cell data and you haven’t been live for quite a while. Oh, you say, this is worth the inconvenience, just turn off wifi and and tell the phone what to do? lovely idea, except…
    Your malingering texts and voicemails may come through, they may not. You may NEVER KNOW. You might have a voicemail for a call not recorded on your phone, or a text may come through at any time.

    Oh and don’t forget! Under their new pricing policy, if you turn off wifi in order to USE THE PHONE, you better remember to turn it back on or you might get charged MORE for their BUGGY INTERFACE causing you to use more data.

    Does this happen occasionaly, randomly, in a way that a mustachian can say is worth the price? It depends, because for me it is a DAILY THING.

    so that sly smile I used to have on my face as friends complained about the price of their sleek iphones and monthly charges has turned to something else…

    Envy that these poor, money-spending people can actually pay money and make calls on their phones. That is, if I get to see these people anymore since I didn’t get the text inviting me to their house for a homemade meal and missed the whole conversation…

    Reply
    • yuka October 11, 2015, 2:00 pm

      I got pretty burnt out on Republic too. I recommend doing a factory reset of your phone. I went from being constantly being frustrated with my phone that was so slow it may as well be bricked, to having a pretty decent phone that stutters on bluetooth but otherwise works.

      There’s definitely a big problem with being on Republic, which is the lack of flexibility that comes with having a carrier-specific device. I think Google Fi’s biggest draws are (1) its superior devices; and (2) your ability to take that superior phone elsewhere if you get frustrated. A $300 phone is pretty powerful to keep you rooted in place when you would like to be leaving for greener pastures. I’m trying to refrain from buying a new phone yet, but I have some serious thoughts of buying the 64gb Nexus 6p (or maybe old 6). Next time Republic infuriates me, it will definitely cement a decision for me not to cancel my 6p pre-order (yeah, punch me now.)

      Reply
  • Ryan September 30, 2015, 9:55 am

    With the new phones announced yesterday, does that make this an even better deal (nicer phones) or worse (more expensive phones)?

    Reply
  • J.D. September 30, 2015, 9:13 pm

    I’m curious if you’ve tried Ting. I’ve been with them for a few years now, and they appear to be cheaper for two phones than Google Fi. We use less than 1GB between the two phones, and our cost is generally less than $50 for both phones. Based on what I’ve read in your article, it should be more expensive for Google Fi due to the $20/phone requirement (unless I’m reading that incorrectly). I’m just curious if you’ve tried them out, or if Google Fi is cheaper than it sounds from how I read your article.

    Reply
  • sdesocio October 3, 2015, 6:35 am

    Thanks for the review. The fi system seems like its cheaper that contract plans but still way more than prepaid bring your own phone plans.

    Reply
  • Rosie October 6, 2015, 4:34 pm

    This post inspired me to look into the Republic option as my needs are pretty simple. However, one thing I saw under the FAQs was this:

    Can I bring my own phone? Unfortunately, no. There are some technical challenges we face in enabling folks to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), such as: we have a custom ROM for Hybrid Calling, often phones are locked by other providers, and PRL updates. So for now, it’s not an option on the table. However, Android phones, WiFi, and the Web fuel our optimism that the future could look very different.

    I am pretty tech-illiterate, but I did see the much cheaper refurbished ebay options…any idea if this limitation is a recent development? And is there anyway around it?

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Max October 7, 2015, 1:14 pm

      AFAIK that’s always been a limitation with RW phones: you need phones with firmware that they have customized to do the wifi connection magic for their system…and that makes it unusable with any other carrier. But you *can* save some upfront costs buying a used RW phone from someone who isn’t using theirs anymore (I presume you’re seeing that type of thing on ebay).

      I would advise sticking to any of the Motorola Moto series–the Defy was an older phone that is significantly behind the technology offered by the later phones.

      Reply
  • 2 wheel $ machine October 11, 2015, 6:22 pm

    I requested an invite to Google fi and I got an invitation, but since I already have a t- mobile plan that averages $10 more a month than the google fi plan but I already have a better hand me down phone than the nexus 6p (note 3) I decided to stay with my current plan, because the Google fi plan with the nexus phone woukd take 3 to 4 years to break even. That said, I’m always interested in new tech to save $. This would be a great plan for most people.

    Reply
  • Stephen October 19, 2015, 3:02 pm

    Ahhh! You had me there for awhile MMM. Happy April Fools to you too!…..oh wait?

    Reply

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