Opinion: It’s about time Google Project Fi turned to OnePlus for the next affordable Android One phone

Project Fi

In 2015, Google launched Project Fi, an MVNO that is tied to Google devices and uses infrastructures laid down by T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular (in the U.S.) and Three in Europe and Hong Kong.

Looking at its setup, Google Project Fi is a wireless service that targets budget-conscious smartphone users who also happen to be frequent international travelers. However, over the past couple years, things haven’t looked so.

When Project Fi was born, the only compatible smartphone was the Motorola-made Google Nexus 6. As the name suggests, this was an experimental project and as such, it made more sense to limit the support to one device and build up on that. The following year, Google added two more devices – Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P. We all know a lot about these two, especially since they happen to be the last in the Nexus family.

With the Nexus 6, Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P, Google had managed to attract a significant number of people to Project Fi for several reasons. For starters, the phones were affordable and offered top-notch hardware and clean versions of Android. In addition, the fact that Google was always there to provide support, including software updates for up to three years, made it easy for Nexus phones to gain popularity.

The more people bought the Google Nexus phones, the more the numbers on Google Project Fi expanded. It was easy to jump in and try out things on the other side and at some point Project Fi was even selling the Nexus 6P at $400 and the Nexus 5X at just $200, which made it even easier. Up to now, many have never looked back since they decided to try Fi, but others discovered that Fi isn’t really for everyone.

However, when the Google Pixel and Pixel XL were unveiled, Project Fi lost one aspect of its essential – all-round affordability. Even though Google tried making things easier by adding a financing option for Pixel and Pixel XL buyers, not everyone is into contracts. There are those who prefer to pay for a device one-off, but affordably. With the Pixels priced at $650 and $770 respectively, some Nexus users who were hoping to stick to Fi but get a newer, yet affordable device from Google were effectively kicked out.

To make amends, Google Project Fi recently added the Moto X4 Android One to its repository, making it the first sub-$400 smartphone to support Fi since the 2015 Nexus 5X. It also became the first non-Google phone to work on Fi. This has for sure been a form of relief for many who had hoped for an affordable device on Fi, but comparing the Moto X4 to, say, Nexus 5X, brings up the issue of value for money.

Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P

The LG-made Nexus 5X launched at a base price of $379 and $429 for the 32GB storage model. For this, the phone came with a 5.2-inch full HD display screen, a high-end Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, 2GB RAM, a 12.3MP camera on the back and a 2700mAh battery unit. In case you didn’t know, this is the same processor that also powered LG’s flagship phones of 2015 – the LG G4 and LG V10 – but these two had price tags that nearly doubled the Nexus 5X.

In short, the Google Nexus 5X was a good value for your money. But can the same be said of the Google Pixel and Pixel 2? That’s up for debate. What about OnePlus 5T, OnePlus 5, OnePlus 3T, OnePlus 3 and the entire OnePlus family of phones? Here, there’s really nothing to debate about because all OnePlus phones do give you the value for your money, just like what used to happen with the Google Nexus phones. The Moto X4 might be affordable, but the hardware specs on board are nowhere near what the equally-priced OnePlus 3 has to offer.

Even though the Google Nexus phones were affordable, they usually lacked one or two features that other premium phones offered. For instance, the 2014 Nexus 6 had no fingerprint scanner while the follow-up, Nexus 6P, had no waterproofing. A quick look at the new OnePlus 5T tells the same story. It’s a great device with a premium design that is so 2017, powerful hardware specs, and at a great price (same as Nexus 6P at launch), but it doesn’t offer waterproofing and wireless charging, for instance. These are features the most premium of phones offers, but their price tags are almost twice that of the 5T.

It gets even better when looking at the original OnePlus 5. Even though the design looks a little old in 2017, this is one of the few things you sacrifice for getting a device that is powerful yet very affordable. The phone packs the same hardware specs and features as the 5T, HTC U11+ and Galaxy Note 8, but it’s way cheaper, coming in at just $479 for the base model.

Last year, the same company unveiled the OnePlus 3 and later, towards the end, added the OnePlus 3T. The two have a lot in common, right from the looks and under the hood, but as you’d expect, they also have their differences. The OnePlus 3/3T came powered by the best of the best hardware in 2016 – a Snapdragon 820/821, 6GB RAM and 64GB/128GB storage. The phones also ship with a decent 5.5-inch FHD AMOLED screen and a 3000mAh/3400mAh battery alongside some good cameras. The OS is near stock and it has gotten even better with the new OnePlus 5, but it’s the price tags that are even more interesting.

Even though Google Project Fi did a great thing by adding the Moto X4 Android One priced at $400, the value you get compared to paying the same amount for a OnePlus 3 or OnePlus 3T device is pretty much the opposite.

OnePlus 5T vs OnePlus 5

I know there are many who wished that OnePlus devices worked with Fi, but they are also concerned about timely software updates. Looking at what is already happening with the OnePlus 3 and 3T Oreo update, it shows that the company has a great team that can handle timely updates – and there’s always room for improvement.

OnePlus teamed up with DxOMark to give buyers of the OnePlus 5 a great camera, which shows that the company is open to trying out new things. The fact that Google has shown its willingness to partner with third-party OEMs and bring Android One phones to Project Fi adds even more weight. Also, the launch of the OnePlus 5T took place in New York City, something that means more Americans are now aware of the company’s existence. A partnership with Google’s Android One program would make life even easier for OnePlus’ quest to enter the American market with a bang. I’d really love to see this growing desire for the U.S. market extended to Google Project Fi.

What do you think? Would you relish a OnePlus, Google Project Fi partnership? Let us know in your comments below.

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2 thoughts on “Opinion: It’s about time Google Project Fi turned to OnePlus for the next affordable Android One phone”

  1. My Nexus 6p on project Fi will need to be replaced soon and was hoping the 5t would be that phone. Just as the 6p was great value for top specs the 5t looks to be similar value. Will never pay stupid money, $1000! for a phone of similar specs just because of the name on it. Google will probably force me back to Sprint at this rate.

    1. Would be nice but not for me. As you wrote, Project FI is not for everyone. I used Project FI with a new Nexus 5X for a year but the data cost is too high. For the last 10 months, I have been with MintSim on a used Nexus 6P. My 5X has Red Pocket one year prepaid service which cost only $55 for the year (small about of data, txt and voice but it is a backup and the MintSim sim could go in the 5X if the 6P fails).

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