Over the recent past, T-Mobile has become a true contender in the U.S. carrier battles, cementing its position as one of the Big Four wireless networks in the country with a number of smart moves in the contracts’ business.
We can say T-Mobile’s approach to contracts is casual, but when talking about Google’s approach, well, it’s more casual. With Project Fi, the search engine giant has a wireless carrier that leases coverage from three major carriers in T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular, an approach that ensures Fi’s prices get as low as possible. It’s hard to know how Project Fi will be affected by the current talk about a possible merger between T-Mobile and Sprint , but this is a story for another day.
A tad of backgrounds
Deutsche Telekom-owned T-Mobile has been around since 1990 and it’s a GSM carrier with support for 4G LTE connectivity. Its network coverage is not as widespread as Verizon Wireless and AT&T. As for Google Project Fi, which will soon be dropping the “Project” tag, it’s – obviously – owned by Google and it came by in 2015. As noted earlier, it works with CDMA-based Sprint and U.S Cellular and GSM-based T-Mobile – all of which have support for LTE connectivity.
Google Project Fi
Google Project Fi, as the name suggests, is still a project. However, the search engine giant is expected to drop this name, considering that the network’s subscribers keep growing day by day. Fi has two major plans – single and family line. Each plan offers the same, but you save some few dollars when you jump into a family plan, which lets you add up to 5 extra lines.
The Basics is the entry-level package on the two Project Fi plans. It gets you monthly unlimited calls and SMS in the U.S., with the SMS support extending to the international fold for $20 per month for a single line. If you need data, there’s an extra $10 fee charged for 1GB of monthly data.
When it comes to the family plan, The Basics package charges a $20 monthly fee for the first line and the data fee remains at $10 per month for 1GB. For the other lines you add (up to 5), you’ll be charged $15 for each line on a monthly basis. To get each of these lines 1GB of monthly data, you also need to part with $10 per month. You still get unlimited international SMS as well as unlimited talk and text in the U.S. on these family lines.
Note that the data purchased on Google Project Fi can not only be used locally, but also in up to 135 countries globally. When abroad, you can still make calls via Fi, but you’ll be charged $0.20 per minute. It gets even better with Google’s Fi, where the cost of any data that you didn’t use over the course of the month will be refunded when the next billing cycle begins. You don’t get the cash back, instead, you pay less this refunded amount when picking up the next monthly package. If anything, this is the major USP of Project Fi.
A few add-ons
Google Project Fi has a few add-ons to make you happier. If you have an extra phone that is compatible LTE connectivity, Project Fi has a data-only SIM card that you can use on the device for browsing services. This SIM card is connected to your main account and as such, it uses the same data as the main Fi SIM card. You can turn this device into a Wi-Fi hotspot in your home via tethering and you’ll access the same LTE speeds as you would do on the main device.
As you may have noticed, the Project Fi data-only SIM card will only work for those who already own another Fi line with a data plan. Data is priced at $10/month for 1GB. In case your monthly usage goes past this 10GB, you won’t be disconnected, rather, the search engine giant will keep track of your continued usage and charge you the extra data used at the end of the month. The same $10/GB rate will be applied.
BYOD: One downside of Google Project Fi is that it’s limited to a set of Google-owned devices. If you can’t purchase a Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X or Nexus 6, this service is not for you. While you can buy these phones via the official Fi store, you may also bring over a pre-owned Pixel or Nexus phone.
Insurance: There’s phone insurance available as well, which is $5 per month, per device. This covers accidental damages and malfunctions. The covered phones include the new Pixels and 2015’s Nexus family. There are also some deductibles involved, where the Pixel XL and Nexus 6P’s is $99 and the Pixel and Nexus 5X are $79 and $69, respectively.
Switch between Wi-Fi hotspots and Fi data
The power of Google Project Fi lies in the fact that you can seamlessly switch from using T-Mobile to Sprint’s network depending on which has the better coverage. In addition, Fi lets you switch between open public Wi-Fi hotspots and cellular data, a feature that helps in saving data and in the end, money. According to Google, the service uses its own VPN that ensures your connection to these public hotspots remains as safe and secure as possible.
The Project Fi app
Project Fi has an official app that can be downloaded via the Play Store. The app is associated with your Google account and as such, it can be installed on any device using this account. Using this app, it’s possible to make subscription payments, check balances and even reach out to the customer service at zero cost. It gets even better as you can use Project Fi also works with Google Hangouts and Voice services.
One thing that has propelled T-Mobile over the recent past is, as noted earlier, its casual approach to contracts. The carrier offers one essential plan dubbed T-Mobile ONE, which is valued at $70 per month. For this, you get unlimited talk, SMS and data. However, after using 30GB of data in a month, the speeds will be throttled, but how often do you consume 30GB of data in a month?
Like any other carrier, you also get family or rather group plans on T-Mobile. By adding more lines to your T-Mobile ONE plan, you’ll get some discounts on each. A second line will up the plan’s price to $100 per month ($50 per line) while the third and fourth line will set you back $140 (47.50/line) and $160 ($40/line) per month, respectively. In each case, there is a $5 Autopay discount.
You may also opt to take the T-Mobile prepaid channel, where you pay $45 monthly for 4GB of data or $55 per month for 6GB of data. Like with T-Mobile ONE, these packages also include tethering unlimited SD video streaming as well as the usual unlimited talk, SMS and 2G data Music Unlimited, a feature that lets you stream as much music as you want without messing with your 4G LTE package.
A few add-ons
BYOD: T-Mobile lets you come on board with your own device. Just about every unlocked phone will work with all GSM carriers and T-Mobile is one of these.
T-Mobile ONE Plus: An extra monthly fee of $5/line will earn you unlimited HD video streaming stateside. You also get unlimited tethering (although T-Mobile says 4G LTE speeds will be throttled after using 10GB), 2x non-LTE data speeds, voicemail to SMS, name ID and unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi, although this one is limited to Gogo-enabled flights.
For those who are flying out of the country, there’s T-Mobile ONE Plus International. This one will set you back an $25/line per month, which then gives you everything available on the base plan plus unlimited international calls to over 70 countries’ landlines and over 30 countries’ mobile numbers. The plan will also let you enjoy unlimited tethering while abroad, at the same 4G LTE speeds.
T-Mobile Tuesdays: T-Mobile Tuesdays is a weekly chance for you to win free stuff from the Magenta carrier’s partners such as ESPN or maybe win tickets, downloads, discounts and so much more. You don’t have to pay for this add-on; all you need is to download the T-Mobile Tuesdays app via the official app stores on your phone.
So, where do you stand? Google Project Fi or T-Mobile? Share your views with us in the comments below.