If you’re not sure how much data you typically use, don’t fret. There’s a way to check. On Android phones, go to Settings > Network & Internet > SIMsand you’ll see how much data you’ve used this past month. Tap App Data Usage to see which apps use up the most data, and you can also scroll through your data usage from previous months. On iPhones, you can view this by going to Settings > Cellular > Mobile Data. If you’re regularly using less than 3 GB of data per month, the Flexible Plan might be the best option for you.
All of the prices above are for a single line; they all go down slightly per line as you add more. For example, I plan to add a second line to my Unlimited Plus Plan soon, which will make both lines $55 each, or $110 per month total (plus taxes and fees).
Activate Your Chip
Once you’ve picked your plan and signed up, Google will mail out a SIM card. It took a couple of days for mine to arrive, but I’ll gladly take the slight delay if it saves me from setting foot in a physical carrier store. (If you’re using an iPhone or Google Pixelyou can set up Fi with an eSIMmeaning you don’t need to wait for a physical card.)
Once your chip arrives, you’ll need to use a SIM tool to pull out the SIM tray and insert the SIM card into your phone. Then, download the Google Fi app (you’ll need to be on Wi-Fi to do this since your chip won’t connect to the network yet), and follow the steps there. If you’re porting in your old phone number, it may take a little longer . For me, after setting up a new number, Fi was up and running after about 5 minutes. That’s it, you’re done.
I have traveled and lived in rural areas for the past five years, and I’ve tried just about every phone and hot spot plan around—none of them are anywhere near this simple. The only one that comes close is Red Pocket Mobilewhich I still use in addition to Google Fi. (We have more recommendations in our Best Cheap Phone Plans guide.) There are cheaper plans out there, but in terms of ease of use and reliability, Fi is hard to beat.
Using Google Fi in a Hot Spot
You can use Google Fi as a simple way to add cellular connectivity to any device that accepts a SIM card, like a mobile hot spot. You’ll need to activate your Google Fi SIM card with a phone using the Google Fi app, but once the activation is done, you can put that chip in any device your plan allows. If you go with the Unlimited Plus plan, that means you can put your chip in an iPad, Android tablet, or a 4G/5G hot spot. You are still bound by the 50-gigabyte data limit though, so make sure you don’t go too crazy with the Netflix.
The easiest way to set up Google Fi in a hot spot is to order a data-only SIM. That way, you don’t have to use your phone to activate the SIM first. Otherwise there doesn’t seem to be a difference between data-only SIM cards and regular SIMs.
Your Questions, Answered
- Do I need a Google account? Yes, you do need a Google account to sign up for Google Fi, but you don’t need to be all-in on Google to use Fi. I have an Android phone, and I use Google apps since that’s what we use here at WIRED, but outside of work, I do not use any Google services other than Fi, and it still works great.
- Is Google Fi tracking my every move? Yesbut so is your current provider. Google Fi’s terms of service say Google doesn’t sell what’s known as customer proprietary network information—things like call location, details, and features you use—to anyone else.
- I’m traveling and want to Use Google Fi abroad. Will that work? Yes. Fi’s terms of service do require you to activate your service in the US, but after that, it should work anywhere Fi has partnered with an in-country network. The one possible catch is long-term travel. The TOS says that if you “use Fi service predominantly internationally, you may have your international capabilities suspended.” There’s no official clarification on what constitutes “predominantly,” but unofficially I know several people who have been out of the US for years using Fi and have had no trouble. Still, as they say, your mileage may vary.
Tips and Tricks
There are several features available through the Google Fi app you might not discover at first. One of my favorites is an old Google Voice feature that allows you to forward calls to any phone you like. This is also possible in Google Fi. All you need to do is add a number to Fi’s forwarding list, and any time you get a call, it will ring both your cell phone and that secondary number—whether it’s a home phone, second cell, or the phone at the Airbnb you’re at . This is very handy in places where your signal strength is iffy—just route the call to a landline. Similarly, it can be worth enabling the Wi-Fi calling feature for times when you have access to Wi-Fi but not a cell signal .
Another feature that’s becoming more and more useful as the number of spam calls I get goes ever upward is call blocking. Android and iOS calling apps can block calls, but that just sends the caller direct to voicemail, and you still end up getting the voicemail . Block a call through the Google Fi app and the callers get a message saying your number has been disconnected or is no longer in service. So far as they know, you’ve changed numbers. To set this up, open the Fi app and look under Phone Settings for Spam and Blocked Numbers. Tap Manage Blocked Numbers and then you can add any number you like to the list. If you change your mind, all you need to do is delete the listing.
Special offer for Gear readers: Get a 1-Year Subscription to WIRED for $5 ($25 off). This includes unlimited access to WIRED.com and our print magazine (if you’d like). Subscriptions help fund the work we do every day.