Project Fi is cell phone service by Google that is currently by invite only on one handset. the Nexus 6. Fi combines the resources of first choice WiFi and two cellular networks (Sprint and T-mobile), automatically switching between whichever three networks has the best signal on the fly for voice and data. Simple billing of $20 unlimited talk/text, $10 per gig of cell data. Unused data is refunded from each $10 increment. Fi easily transitions for use in 120 countries for often the same rate. Fi FAQ
Project Fi review in short: Fi works and is a good value for a low price. Extremely simple and transparent billing, support is excellent.
I received the Fi kit with a (surprise) back up battery, head phones and a high quality case for the Nexus 6 with “Fi” molded on the back.
You set up the porting information ahead of time via the Fi desktop website so when you sign on to the phone for the first time the port begins automatically. Complete porting can also be done from the Fi app on the Nexus 6.
I was glad that I had an issue with the porting process as I wanted to try each of the support systems to see how the Google robots that people fear deal with an issue.
Surprise! Living, breathing people that are empowered to fix an issue.
The “phone” option for support: Put in a call back number, and it tells you the waiting time. Each time I tried it, it said one minute and a person called me back in one minute day or night.
After the call, you receive an email that summarizes your issue and you can reply if it was resolved. You receive an optional phone survey at the end of each call.
The “email” option for support: Uses a form and then email response like the phone summary.
There is a live chat on the desktop interface.
For some reason, a digit was getting dropped off my porting PIN during automated transfer from MVNO Ting.com, a phone company the Fi folks had never heard of.
Humans from both Google and Ting got on the phone, called each other, and forced computers to talk to each other.
Fixed: It ported immediately.
Fi is by invite, with one device offered. That is how you work out the kinks of things before broadening the availability. I like being part of any learning process. Support was an enjoyable, personable experience without the usually menu tiers of corporate phone support.
It is best to use your summary email after an initial call, rather than just cold cocking support with the same problem via phone. It compiles the issue and escalates it. Even if you use the phone for the first call, reply with the emails if the issue isn’t resolved.
Cell data works before porting: The cell data works right out of the box as soon as you boot up the Nexus 6 and activate with Project Fi. The porting process is secondary bringing your handset phone number voice and texting over to Project Fi.
Warning current Google Voice users: Think really hard about how you currently use Google Voice and consider how things might change so you can update which Gmail account hosts your GV number.
If you port your handset number into a primary Gmail account with a current Google Voice number, the GV number will be booted back out into the pool and you will lose it.
I have used my GV number for years to consolidate and synchronize all voice mail and text messaging between all devices (phones, desktop, tablets, Android, i OS) with different handset numbers.
I had the option to use that number which was paired with my primary Gmail account or port in another number. I wanted to keep my handset number I have had for 15 years and my current Google voice number tied to my main Gmail account.
I opted to port my GV number into a secondary Gmail account I don’t use much (you can create a new one). And port my current Ting handset number into my Fi phone (my primary Gmail account).
In reality, the Fi phone is a Google Voice number and is part of that system, thus you can’t have two GV numbers on the same Gmail account.
Now I still consolidate all my numbers and voicemail and texting with the Hangouts app, only I have gone back to my handset number as my primary number because it also works with the Chrome extension on the desktop for texting and calls, which is tied to the email account you log into Chrome with.
If you have any money credit in your GV account that is porting over to the alternative account, it will be transferred over into you project Fi account as an account credit. Now I can finally use the $10 Google gave me for signing up for Google Voice a zillion years ago.
So now all my phone numbers are consolidated into the Hangouts app once again.
A notification pops up from any of the phone numbers in Hangouts when people text linking me to the text that came in. For a short time, i have to be aware of which number I am texting back out.
I am slowly working people back to my handset number on project Fi phone for texting because it works in my primary Gmail account and I can continue to match my text messages on the desktop with the Chrome extension.
Eventually, i will be back to where I was only one number across all devices and my old Google Voice number will be in the background in the event any forgotten contacts call/text me that way going forward I will get a notification.
Google is planning a big update to the hangouts app, if you don’t like the way it works now, there are probably some changes to improve it.
You can opt to receive texts in a regular text app by default on the Nexus 6, if you don’t like to complicate things, with multiple numbers across multiple devices.
Voicemail: The voicemail is integrated into your recent call stream of the phone dialer. VM is transcribed into text with an option to hear it and redial so you don’t have to do anything to interface with VM like calling a number or pushing a VM button.
If you are signed into your hangouts app with the Project Fi/ Gmail account the voicemail will also appear there across your shared devices.
My work (Verizon) and personal phone (Fi) are mirrored devices for the most part. That gives me the redundancy of all three cell networks (Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile) and hardware.
Network: Project Fi chooses between using T-Mobile, Sprint and WiFi. Whichever network gives the best signal for data and talking.
Software tries to get the transition into WiFi whenever possible. From a user perspective, you can’t tell anything is going on. It is seamless.
Calling can be done on WiFi and transition into cell. Calling on WiFi can be really handy when you are a couple floors underground with no cell service, or another country with WiFi. The unlimited calling/text is a flat fee of $20.
Call quality has been good, testing throughout York County Pennsylvania.
Data: You pay for what you use. $10 a gig and you are credited at the end of the month for the part of the gig you don’t use toward the next month. There are no overage fees. Picking a tier of data is mostly for budgeting purposes.
If you pick the minimum 1 gig, you will be credited for the amount of data not used below the 1 gig. So 100 mb of data would cost $1.
The idea with this phone is to use free Wifi spots as much as possible and software in the phone helps to sign into Wifi easier.
When you sign in once, the Nexus 6 will remember the sign-in when “xfinitywifi” appears and attempt to auto connect.
You can shut off WiFi and just use your $10/gig cell data, but it tends to want to connect to WiFi again. I really haven’t tried to force it not to connect, as I want it to connect.
Sometimes the Xfinity hot spots can be troublesome, but often most useful to avoid using cell data.
You can also use the phone as a hot spot using that same mobile data.
Within the Fi app you can:
- Create a greeting for voicemail
- Change privacy settings to allow retrieval of voicemail from another phone, set a pin. Opt to send voicemail to Google to improve transcription, opt in to allow Google to use your Customer Proprietary Network information to offer additional services. Generate a secret code that will create a security barrier from someone calling into Fi support as you.
- Call forwarding allows you to forward a phone and texts to another device
- Set data usage alerts
- Opt in for news, updates, tips and tricks
- Update credit card info
- See billing
- Access support
- Access the Fi community, a closed group on Google+
You can service the entire account without leaving the mobile app.
Nexus 6: It’s BIG!
I’m a big fan of the Moto X phones, using two first generation and currently I use a second generation Moto X for work at ydr.com.
The Nexus 6 is mostly like a very large Moto X, adding some very sweet front facing stereo speakers making the Netflix experience on a phone like a small theater. These speakers are also excellent for GPS in the car and filling a room with a podcast.
if you use the supplied charger it’s designed to charge super fast, giving you 8 hours of run time in 15 minutes. The battery life has been very good.
Because it is a Nexus device (Running 5.1), it runs a pure version of Android without software extras third party manufactures dump on phones, so you will need to dive into the Play store to make the Nexus 6 your own.
The camera interface on the Moto X is one of my favorite automated camera modules. By flicking the smartphone from a certain position, you can open the camera and be ready to shoot, plus HDR and the ability to spot focus and adjust exposure.
The Nexus 6 uses the stock Google Camera (which has updated twice since I started using the phone). Although it does some fancy things like Photosphere, for the nuts and bolts of taking a quick photo, the Moto X interface is superior. It’s interesting that although Google owned Motorola when this was developed, that the useful Moto X options weren’t part of the Google Camera interface. It looks entirely different.
Android 5.1 allows for the use of deep third part manual control and shooting RAW files. If you are into tweaking, try a camera interface like Manual Camera.
You can manually control shutter speed, focus distance, ISO, white balance in infinite increments and output as RAW or jpg.
The Nexus 6 camera has mechanical stability control, so you can lower the ISO and shutter speed. Lower ISO means better quality if you can keep the image sharp.
The Moto X can shoot UHD 4k video and a 13 mp back sensor.