Project fi in tourism technology
Wherever I go, people always ask me about my phone, or rather my plan. I have been using Project fi from Google for about six months and it has been generally good.
How it works
Google did a deal mostly with Sprint and T-Mobile and many international carriers in 2015. It tries wifi first and then switches to a carrier if the signal strength is not strong enough. At last count, it was available in 135 countries for about $20 dollars a month plus $10 a gig for data with unused data carried over to the next month. Scared Verizon?
Porting my number from Verizon took a day or two and the Project fi website was user friendly. I ordered the Nexus 5x through Project fi. One of the major criticisms of Project fi deals with the limited phone options. Currently only Pixel and Nexus phones can use it. To their credit, they have announced that a deal is in the works for more options later this year. My phone came a couple days later with the Project fi SIMM card. Later, I bought a backup phone with another SIMM, just in case.
I was up and running pretty quickly and after about two weeks, my withdrawal symptoms from iOS started to subside. I still have a tablet and MacBook Air. What I missed most were Apple notes for quick thoughts shared across all devices. Now it is a Google doc.
So fi is available just about everywhere. Well, not in Vietnam. Wifi only here. Turns out the country right now is one of the few where fi is not available using a carrier. There is still a 15 minute delay in television signals, imposed by the government for censorship purposes, so it is not too surprising. Wifi is readily available, but I do remember trying to tell a cab to wait while I went back into a restaurant to get a signal to show him an address. He left due to my offline nonexistent Vietnamese language capabilities. Translate is not the best either. I got another cab, but still.
Pick up, pick up, pick up...
I may have a cheap plan, but that doesn’t mean others do. I tried to call a dry cleaners in Vietnam and they did not pick up since there would be a charge for accepting an international call. I friended them on Facebook and used Messenger. All went well.
is always a nice greeting. When I landed in Seoul for example, and turned on my phone, Project fi greeted me with “Welcome to Korea,” Project fi has coverage here… with all the applicable rates. I also remember flying over countries and my phone lighting up, “Welcome to Brazil” (never been, yet) on my way to the Southern Cone. With that in mind, don’t forget to update your contacts with the country codes.
Anytime now fi…
In Argentina, fi originally thought I was in Uruguay and not Buenos Aires. It took a day and some empanadas later before they caught on and I could get a signal “outside.”
Battery life, ugh...
By far the weakest link is the battery. The new Oreo operating system, (which to me, sounds like a pejorative) is said to help. It is available in beta, but I’ll wait for Google to push it to my phone when they are ready. In the meantime, a charge for 30 minutes during the day typically gets me through.
Google has a whole host of technology strategies. Remember Google Fiber? It looks like they got burned there which could explain the lack of push behind Project fi. Can a primarily software dedicated company succeed and scale in the customer service centric phone business? They seem to be moving very slowly.
For now, I use the phone to call at (20 cents a minute) and text back to the states and Messenger (Vietnam) and WhatsApp (Argentina) internationally. It is nice having a signal in the streets for quick things though. Go figure, my two communication worlds are Google and Facebook. Future utilities?
Digital trends does a good job breaking it down. The pricing strategy must scare the incumbent carriers.
Peter Nyheim, Ph.D.