One of the major drawbacks of Google Project Fi is the limited number of supported smartphones. Many have lamented this aspect, which is even why there are rumors that the Moto X4 will be joining the currently-supported Google Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Pixel and Pixel XL phones later this year.
The move to add an affordable Moto X4 to the list of Fi-compatible devices is a smart one. The Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P are obviously the last affordable phones that Google will ever release, at least for the time being. Even with this addition alongside the upcoming Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL phones, Project Fi will still have a limited set of supported devices when compared to the likes of T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular, the carriers that have allowed Fi to use their infrastructure to render its wireless services.
With this in mind, there have been calls that Google could do better by allowing people to bring their own devices to Project Fi. But this is hindered by the fact that Fi-compatible devices need to come with special radios out of the box, which means Google has to strike deals with different OEMs for this to be possible – just like it’s reportedly happening with Lenovo’s Motorola.
Still on the issue of bringing your own Samsung Galaxy or iPhone to Google Project Fi, well, this is very possible. You can use your iPhone 6 or Galaxy S7 on Fi, be it via the voice and data SIM card or the data-only SIM card. But since this phone is not Fi-approved, there are a few core features that you might miss.
As noted earlier, for a phone to fully access all the features of Google Project Fi, it needs special radios that can tune to T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Sprint and Wi-Fi networks and seamlessly switch between them, even when in the middle of a call. The phone also needs to have the Fi app installed as it plays a role in managing these networks.
With a non-Google phone, you will be missing out on the above, although it’s possible that some phones have the necessary radios needed to connect to the three carriers. In order to use Google Project Fi on this device, you’ll still need to activate the account. If you don’t have someone you know that has a Nexus or Pixel phone, you are doomed. To get going, the initial setup needs a Fi-compatible phone.
If you succeed in finding one, you’ll be able to use this voice and data SIM card on your Galaxy S7, iPhone 7 or any other phone, but it needs to support GSM carriers or at least it should be compatible with T-Mobile. While you’ll still be able to enjoy Fi services on your iPhone or Android phone, there are a couple of things you’ll be missing.
First, this Project Fi SIM card will only connect to T-Mobile, which is why the phone must be compatible with GSM or rather unlocked. This means you’ll miss out on Sprint and U.S. Cellular. In addition, using a non-Google phone will mean that you miss out on seamless wireless calling, but you can still get the feature via a Google Hangouts app linked to the Gmail account used to set up Fi.
Without the Google Project Fi app, you’ll have to use the web version to manage your account, which can sometimes be inconvenient. But as long as you can access it, the hassle is worth it. When launching Project Fi, Google also unveiled a feature known as Wi-Fi Assistant. This is what allows Google Pixel and Nexus phones to automatically connect to open Wi-Fi hotspots using the company’s VPN and thus saving you some significant amount in terms of cellular data usage.
This feature was limited to Google phones, but with Android 8.0 Oreo, it’s coming to all Android phones. For those who’ll be using an Oreo-powered phone with Google Project Fi, you should, at least, be able to enjoy seamless switching between T-Mobile and open Wi-Fi hotspots, even when making a call, without noticing any changes in quality of sound or video for that matter.
The good side of the story is that you’ll be able to get all other Project Fi features, including some cool savings for those who regularly travel to different countries across the globe.