Android Oreo is less than a few days old and it’s already looking promising. The software has already started rolling out to Google Pixel and Nexus users, but it should take some time before non-Google phones start getting a similar treat.
One thing that people love about new software is the new features they come with. Android Oreo has plenty of them, but there’s one that stands out with respect to Google Project Fi. This wireless carrier has been around since 2015 and so far, it’s been doing great in terms of numbers. One problem, though, is that only a handful of phones are supported, all of which are owned by Google.
To activate a Google Project Fi account, you must use any of the two Pixel phones, the Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X or Nexus 6. Once it’s active, you can keep using the SIM card on the same phone or use it on a non-Google phone. However, the latter case would mean you lose a few perks – perks that make Project Fi what it is.
In order to use all features of Fi, a phone needs to have radios that can tune in to all partner frequencies. These include T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Sprint. With this capability, Fi is able to shift connections to either of them, even when in the middle of a call, without affecting the quality of services. When you are in an area where Sprint is the strongest, Fi will jump to this carrier and if you move to where T-Mobile is the best, Fi will also shift to this new carrier – without you noticing any changes.
Also, phones supported on Google Project Fi automatically switch between data and Wi-Fi connectivity by scanning for open public hotspots and connect to the strongest – seamlessly – without affecting your current activities, even if it’s a video call. According to Google, doing this requires special hardware that is only available on Nexus and Pixel phones.
As noted earlier, you can still use a Project Fi voice/data SIM in a non-Google phone, however, there are some features you won’t be able to enjoy. First, the phone will only work in areas with the T-Mobile network, which means no seamless switching to Sprint or U.S. Cellular networks. You will also lose the seamless switching between data and Wi-Fi since the Wi-Fi Assistant, a feature that auto-connects your device to the strongest and open Wi-Fi hotspot around, is only limited to the Google Nexus and Pixel phones. You also won’t be able to download and install the Project Fi app on a non-Google phone, an app that is very important in managing Fi networks.
The Wi-Fi Assistant made its debut with Google Project Fi back in 2015, but somehow it’s now supported on all Nexus phones with at least Android 5.1 Lollipop and the Pixel phones. If anything, this is the feature that has played a huge role in Fi being a Nexus and Pixel phone exclusive. Even if you can still use a Fi SIM card on a non-approved phone, you will still miss out on some of the carrier’s best features.
But according to a new development, it appears that Google is loosening the grip and might in the near future allow other devices to use access all Project Fi features. In the latest Android Oreo, the search giant has added the Wi-Fi Assistant feature out of the box. This means that all Android phones installed with this OS will be able to seamlessly switch between their data networks and Wi-Fi hotspots with the strongest signal. Many Project Fi users will tell you that this feature plays a huge role in saving the amount of money they use on mobile data each month. Well, the story will be the same when it comes to other Android Oreo users.
Having a Wi-Fi Assistant on all Android Oreo devices is not the big deal. Rather, the big deal here is about the possibilities of such devices making it to Google Project Fi. As noted, the ability to seamlessly switch between data networks and Wi-Fi is one key feature that has meant other non-Google phones haven’t been able to get all the features of Fi. Now that a section of it (Wi-Fi Assistant is not responsible for switching between T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Sprint networks) is here, does it mean more Android phones might start working with Fi in the not-so-distant future?
It’s very likely that this would be the case, especially now that we are already hearing rumors of the first non-Google phone to support Project Fi, the Moto X4. The phone will reportedly be unveiled this coming Q4 and it will mark the search giant’s first major step towards adding more non-Google phones to Fi.