Have you ever had a search engine provide your cell service? You will.
April 22, 2015 11:09 AM   Subscribe

Renowned not-evil search engine company Google just formally announced its long-rumoured MVNO: Google Fi.

Prices start at $20 for unlimited domestic talk and text, unlimited international texts, low-cost international calls, wi-fi tethering, coverage in 120+ countries, and data rates of $10 per 1GB, no contract required. You only pay for what you use. Nexus 6 owners get first crack at it.

If you're not keen on a company likely datamining the hell out of your phone, don't sweat it, it's probably already happened to you, and AT&T has been decidedly evil for years anyway.
posted by entropicamericana (84 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Getting 404 on 'request invite' link. Anyone else?
posted by leotrotsky at 11:11 AM on April 22, 2015


If this requires special hardware, I'm a little less excited about it. Still seems pretty cool.
posted by The Lamplighter at 11:12 AM on April 22, 2015




It's Nexus 6 only. (And US only, but that's not a huge shocker).
posted by bonehead at 11:14 AM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Plus side:
Cheap

Negative side:
lolprivacy

But the truth of the matter is that privacy is basically impossible on any provider especially in the US. I guess it's just a matter of which company you want datamining you.
posted by vuron at 11:17 AM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Will this be the thing that finally makes me let go of my unlimited data with Verizon? So tempting.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:18 AM on April 22, 2015


Not crazy about Google, but I think they're probably several orders of magnitude less evil than AT&T, and less promiscuous with your data. If I could use my iPhone 6 on it, I'd switch today.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:19 AM on April 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't want Google Fi; I want Google Fiber.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:20 AM on April 22, 2015 [17 favorites]


If it's Android-only Google already knows everything about you so it's not like anything will change in that regard. And if it does to wireless phone bills what Google Fiber has done to home broadband it's going to mean lower bills for everyone.
posted by tommasz at 11:21 AM on April 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


This privacy angle is kinda nuts, is there some evidence I'm not aware of that the other providers are going to take fewer liberties with your data?
posted by skewed at 11:21 AM on April 22, 2015 [19 favorites]


AT&T clearly sold my data to a bunch of people, as I know due to them misunderstanding my name on the phone and then me suddenly receiving a whole lot of credit card offers addressed to someone who doesn't exist!

This is pretty cool. I don't know if I want a Nexus 6, but it's something I'll keep an eye on.
posted by easter queen at 11:21 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Heh. Yeah, no. My current data usage so far this billing period has been 14.4 GB. I am paying $50 for "unlimited" data through T-Mobile, and they have yet to throttle my speeds. I seriously do not want to be paying $140+/month for my data usage.

Mind you, I use my phone all the time for all kinds of data stuff (weather, traffic, maps, reading metafilter, e-mail, vpn into work, ssh, other stuff) almost constantly. This is definitely not something I would even consider. I mean, it makes sense if you don't need the data, but seriously, I use a ton of data, because of the nature of my job/life.
posted by daq at 11:22 AM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


google thinks you can get 4G LTE at my house... whereas I can actually barely connect voice calls.

Plus side:
Cheap


Now, all I have to do is spend $650 on a phone in order to get magical internet coverage and unlimited voice and text for about the same price as Verizon month to month.

Google would probably be better off spending however many billions of dollars they are putting into a project that puts them in competition with the cellphone oligopolies and cable oligopolies on lobbying for actual antitrust and monopoly enforcement... oh wait.

actually, I guess it will be interesting to see which monopolistic industry forms big enough financial trusts to dominate the US politically and economically. Frankly, I wouldn't write off the cable and cellphone companies, they have a history of dog-eat-dog "competition" based on shady business practices and financial fraud that easily outclasses Silicon Valley.
posted by ennui.bz at 11:26 AM on April 22, 2015


I'm really excited about this. In my ideal world, there would be lots of different service providers (maybe even local ones) who your phone automatically switches between based on price, service, signal strength, etc. Right now that's impossible because you need your one network to provide service everywhere you might go, so there's strong market pressure to combine networks, leading to having only a few, gigantic network providers, and very little competition. Dynamic network switching changes all that.

We can have competing networks and competing MVNOs operating at different sections of the stack, and none of the same market pressure to consolidate networks.

(Disclaimer: I work for the search engine / phone / webhosting / broadband provider / MVNO / video streamer / news service / web browser developer / book seller in question, but I don't speak for them or have any inside knowledge about Fi or its plans for the future).
posted by The Notorious B.F.G. at 11:27 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm really excited about this. In my ideal world, there would be lots of different service providers (maybe even local ones) who your phone automatically switches between based on price, service, signal strength, etc. Right now that's impossible because you need your one network to provide service everywhere you might go, so there's strong market pressure to combine networks, leading to having only a few, gigantic network providers, and very little competition. Dynamic network switching changes all that.

the reason why you can't have your dream is because the federal government has shirked it's historic antitrust and monopoly enforcement mandate in order to collude with the telecommunications and internet industries to create business monopolies, which employ the tactics of the financial trusts of the "gilded age" to extend vertically to capture profit as rents.

competition can't change anything about the way the communications business is structured, because vital components (cellphone coverage, internet search, last mile wired TCP/IP, etc) are controlled and siloed by one of these business stacks. only political reform will change anything.
posted by ennui.bz at 11:34 AM on April 22, 2015 [27 favorites]


I'm kind of surprised at the per-gigabyte data pricing. Google usually encourages you to use as much bandwidth as possible, but this seems like it would discourage use, and isn't really an earth-shattering deal unless you've never shopped around with MNVOs/resellers before. I guess they couldn't swing a better deal with the mobile carriers?
posted by Vulgar Euphemism at 11:36 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Can we call it GooFi for short?
posted by aught at 11:36 AM on April 22, 2015 [19 favorites]


This is pretty weak sauce. Sprint has all you can eat data, uncapped, for iPhones at $50/month, Android for $60, and phone financing. Verizon has better coverage, so they'll happily overcharge and boss you around. Google Fi has... what? Expensive internet that will drain your wallet dry if you're not careful, with the second banana coverage of Sprint or T-Mob. The worst of all worlds.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:38 AM on April 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


(And US only, but that's not a huge shocker)

This is likely a regulatory issue, as they appear to be planning to offer the same data rate while roaming in 120+ countries, which is a really big deal, and an unbelievably huge "Fuck You" to the telecom industry, which continues to gouge customers who travel internationally.

Verizon's base rate for international data is $20/MB if you don't have a roaming plan, and $25/100MB if you do.

While I too wish that Google were offering unlimited data, the rates are pretty good, and it seems like they're planning to refund unused data with no penalty, which is pretty awesome -- all other "rollover" plans that I know of have huge caveats that make them effectively worthless.
posted by schmod at 11:41 AM on April 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


In my experience, Sprint's unlimited data plan largely amounts to "If you can manage to get any data through our spotty and congested network, go for it!"

My ex had Sprint for a year, and couldn't manage to download 4GB in a month even if he tried.
posted by schmod at 11:43 AM on April 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


This privacy angle is kinda nuts, is there some evidence I'm not aware of that the other providers are going to take fewer liberties with your data?

Their general lack of competence, compared to Google's terrible mastery.
posted by rodlymight at 11:45 AM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


only political reform will change anything.

Google Fibre and this new service are an attempt to refute that claim. I think this is largely because Google has decided that, even though they outspend just about everyone on lobbying, political change at the federal level isn't happening, and/or won't happen anywhere near fast enough for them. Google has shown that it's more than happy to back the money dumptrucks up to buy access for Fibre and realizes that local government is much, much more amenable to "financial incentives" than the national or state ones are. I strongly suspect that they'll use the same process here.

Google has shown several times now that their management can deal with scale well---they can handle lots of local interactions. Their ability to work competently at the small scale, while maintaining a broad national focus has to be terrifying to the national carriers, which struggle to do so. It's also more than a little unsettling to governments, who are flooded and can in no way keep up.

This is Google on another of their end-runs, yeah a little around the pig providers, but mostly around the FTC. It will probably work too.
posted by bonehead at 11:45 AM on April 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Heck, if you are willing to forgo hardware choice you might as well try Republic Wireless (which is what I have). Cheaper phones, cheaper plans, and integrated wifi calling, which in some ways feels like a bigger innovation than anything I'm seeing here.

Google will never get AT&T or Verizon (hahaha lolz) to let them MVNO on those networks so this "switching" is as good as it gets... I kind of doubt anyone will build another cell network in the US in the near or medium term.
posted by selfnoise at 11:51 AM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Looking at this another way, this is a really good prepaid/contract-free plan.

The phone is expensive, but so is any off-contract phone. If you want, Google will amortize the cost over 24 months with no interest ($27/mo). AFAIK, no other carrier has such an offer (or, at least one that's this transparent/straightforward about what you're paying for).

The only drawback is the lack of a low-end handset, for those who don't want to shell out $650 for a high-end model.

There are other MVNOs with pretty good rates, but coverage tends to suck, and current-generation/high-end handsets don't tend to be available. While I have some doubts about T-Mobile and Sprint's combined coverage amounting to something tolerable, Google's proposal is certainly more attractive than other MVNO that I've seen to date.

Heck. If they can introduce a cheap ($100-$200) handset, this will end up being a really big deal for low-income individuals.
posted by schmod at 11:55 AM on April 22, 2015


2 words: Republic Wireless. I get uncapped data, voice and messaging on WiFi/Sprint 3G for $25/month (actually, I pay $22.50 because I've been with them since beta). I could opt for 4G for $40, and can switch back and forth twice a month, if necessary. You have to buy the phone from Republic (Moto X, Moto G, Moto E), but the prices are reasonable. They are currently working on bring-your-own-phone, according to the last press release, but they're not there yet.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:04 PM on April 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


We've had this for years. It's called Virgin Mobile. They are even on the exact same network (sprint/tmobile.)

(On preview: what Benny said, but about Virgin Mobile! Aka, reasonable prices and good selection of phones. You can even get last gen iPhones and most current gen Android)

If Google can get the big carriers on board, then they have a shot. But that just isn't going to happen. Sprint has been surviving on MNVO revenue for these past years. Verizon/AT&T have been making a killing by overcharging for phone service. The only good I see about this is that with the Google name attached, it will get a lot more press and more people will realize it's an option.
posted by mayonnaises at 12:09 PM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Note that data on Republic is capped at 5gigs a month and throttled thereafter, like many MVNOs. I know this because my father in law apparently didn't understand that Pandora uses data. Otherwise though yeah, I agree they are an excellent MVNO and seem committed to actually finding something to offer beyond "look, here's some cheap service".

We've had this for years. It's called Virgin Mobile. They are even on the exact same network (sprint/tmobile.)

(On preview: what Benny said, but about Virgin Mobile! Aka, reasonable prices and good selection of phones. You can even get last gen iPhones and most current gen Android)


Yeah, it really seems like Google is launching... sort of a middle of the road MVNO. I mean, OK?
posted by selfnoise at 12:12 PM on April 22, 2015


Getting 404 on 'request invite' link. Anyone else?

Ironically, it doesn't seem to work with mobile chrome, but works on desktop chrome.
posted by waytoomuchcoffee at 12:16 PM on April 22, 2015


BTW I dug into the website a bit and one thing I do like is the automatic VPN tunnelling on open Wifi hotspots... I would probably use more hotspots if I had that (and didn't have to pay for it separately).
posted by selfnoise at 12:21 PM on April 22, 2015


*downloads the internet*

I know Google Fi.
posted by halifix at 12:24 PM on April 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Thanks for bringing up Virgin Mobile. I need to switch carriers this month.
posted by halifix at 12:25 PM on April 22, 2015


It seems like a bit of a gamble to put their name on somebody else's spotty network coverage. This seems more like a Yahoo! move.
posted by peeedro at 12:31 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, this at least inspired me to look at my data usage history. I currently have a Sprint unlimited plan, and I averaged just under 500 MB/month for the past year (peak 1,250 MB). So if I switched and my data usage stayed the same, I'd be saving on the order of $40/month. Plus free tethering, which Sprint charges for. Seems like not a bad deal to me.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:31 PM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


  1. I watched the ad, hoping to find out how they think we should pronounce this Google Fi thing.
  2. The ad is absolutely brilliant.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:34 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, backseatpilot, I just did the same thing, and it turns out I'm on track to use about 700 MB this month, so the switch would certainly save me some cash. I applied for an invite, though if I don't hear from them I may end up with Republic instead.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:35 PM on April 22, 2015


The privacy concern isn't about whether Google are worse or better morally in abusing your personal data than phone companies -- it is that they already have so much more of your data than the phone company does, and that they can make better use of new data.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:40 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


There are other MVNOs with pretty good rates, but coverage tends to suck, and current-generation/high-end handsets don't tend to be available.

Cricket uses AT&T's 4G network, can be used with any unlocked GSM cell phone, and has a basic plan that's $35 including tax with unlimited talk, text, slow data plus 2.5GB of fast LTE, with higher end plans with more LTE data. That's cheaper than Virgin Mobile, or even Republic's LTE plan.

Google's offering is indeed pretty weak, and I'm honestly a little surprised.
posted by eschatfische at 12:41 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Huh, they'll also rebate you for the data you don't use... so if I pay ten bucks for a gig and only use half that, they'll refund me five dollars. I don't think any other carrier will do that for you.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:43 PM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wonder if they really enforce the Nexus 6 restriction. Many of us have phones that are compatible, at least in theory... why can't we use those?
posted by miyabo at 12:43 PM on April 22, 2015


I pay $100/month for 12 gigs of data and phone and text with AT&T, and I use it all through tethering. It would cost me $140 with Google, and I don't know what their tethering policy would be, anyway.

I haven't been able to find a carrier that would let me tether that much data at all. My iPhone is jailbroken, but I'd rather just do it legit. I'd like to switch, because AT&T is telling me that they're going to raise my data rate by $25 if I don't do their new phone plan, which coincidentally is $25/month, but it's still going to be the cheapest plan I can get with tethering.
posted by Huck500 at 12:44 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Because this is largely a teaser and a test. Google SOP.
posted by bonehead at 12:44 PM on April 22, 2015


miyabo: "I wonder if they really enforce the Nexus 6 restriction. Many of us have phones that are compatible, at least in theory... why can't we use those?"

You poor, naive non-nexus 6 owning sod (shakes head)


Funny story for real, though: My 6's battery is crazy fucked. It turns off spontaneously at around 70-80% battery level. It's not a good device.
posted by boo_radley at 12:45 PM on April 22, 2015


bonehead: "Because this is largely a teaser and a test. Google SOP."

probably to be shuttered sometime in 2019 or so, too.

HA HA GOOGLE HA HA BRING US READER BACK AND WE FORGIVE YOU
posted by boo_radley at 12:46 PM on April 22, 2015 [12 favorites]


schmod: " My ex had Sprint for a year, and couldn't manage to download 4GB in a month even if he tried."

My Sprint Android unlimited cell (Note4) usually clears 10-20GB on cell network, 40-60GB on WiFi monthly. I guess this is very location-specific, but I'm in a particularly congested, high-demand region.

These Google data charges seem a little excessive.
posted by meehawl at 12:53 PM on April 22, 2015


And if it does to wireless phone bills what Google Fiber has done to home broadband it's going to mean lower bills for everyone.

When did Google Fiber do that?
posted by davros42 at 12:55 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'd love to know what you guys use all this data on - I don't think I could keep my phone charged long enough on any given day to burn through that much.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:56 PM on April 22, 2015


You actually can use it with any device once you have the SIM, so long as it supports Hangouts. Not for me, though. I'm perfectly fine with at&t, thanks. It costs me less than half the price. at&t is great, if you can do a family plan type thing.

boo_radley, ever thought of making use of the warranty? Why fume about a phone that is clearly defective when you can get it fixed?
posted by wierdo at 12:58 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


wierdo: "boo_radley, ever thought of making use of the warranty? Why fume about a phone that is clearly defective when you can get it fixed?
"
You're right and that's what I'm doing tbh. It seems to be large problem for the device, though.
posted by boo_radley at 1:01 PM on April 22, 2015


I'd love to know what you guys use all this data on

I'm guessing Linux torrents.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:05 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hmm, how is Republic's coverage in practice? I hardly use my iPhone for anything, anymore, honestly, and Republic's $10 plan sounds pretty great to me.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:07 PM on April 22, 2015


One of the things that I'm reminded of, both by this thread and also by my own travails in selecting a plan/phone is that phone use is a highly personalized thing. Some people use a lot of data, some people use none but text constantly, some people need X feature on their phone or it's a dealbreaker, some people really need high speed, etc. For that reason I'm skeptical that any individual plan/system Google would throw out there would be a total game-changer. The nice thing about all the MVNOs is that you can find something, usually, that's reasonably close to your use profile.

Hmm, how is Republic's coverage in practice? I hardly use my iPhone for anything, anymore, honestly, and Republic's $10 plan sounds pretty great to me.

It's Sprint. (the network). So depends on where you live. You can check Sprint's detailed coverage maps on their site. I have had zero problems, many people vehemently disagree.

The thing that is great for me is that you can make calls on Wifi seamlessly. So when I'm up in the boonies at my wife's families house, I am the only person who can make or receive calls on my cellphone. And my friend's "dead zone" house is no problem as well. It's pretty neat.
posted by selfnoise at 1:12 PM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Prices start at $20 for unlimited domestic talk and text, unlimited international texts, low-cost international calls, wi-fi tethering, coverage in 120+ countries, and data rates of $10 per 1GB, no contract required. You only pay for what you use.

Followed by...

Project Fi has partnered with Sprint and T-Mobile

...is like a rollercoaster of emotion if a rollercoaster just plummeted directly into the ground after you crest the very first hill.
posted by jason_steakums at 1:15 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


No love for Ting in this thread? My bills average $35/month including taxes/fees. Never had a problem with voice coverage, but data is spotty at my new job (in a major suburb).
posted by desjardins at 1:21 PM on April 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think this is largely because Google has decided that, even though they outspend just about everyone on lobbying, political change at the federal level isn't happening, and/or won't happen anywhere near fast enough for them.

Yes, this sort of thing comes to mind whenever people start complaining about Uber and other Silicon Valley companies with boundary-pushing business models: politics happens so slowly that it might as well be viewed as a geological process, from the point of view of a tech startup. Telling a company like Google to wait for regulatory change before building a new business is the same thing as telling them never to build the business; in fact, given our corporation-dominated political system, creating the business in spite of the regulatory obstacles may well be the only way to create enough pressure to get them changed.

If you want to build a road, but there's a big boulder in your way, you can either dynamite it or you can come up with a clever reroute that circumvents it. "Just wait for erosion to take care of the boulder, and then build your road" is not a helpful answer.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:23 PM on April 22, 2015


desjardins, I'm one of those ting people.

For my household, I would not save compared to ting. On ting, we have 3 devices for a base rate of $18/month, and then typically use <500 minutes, <1000 texts and <500MB for a total rate before taxes of $44. On Fi, as I understand it, we'd have a base rate of $60 before using any data.

So while the perks like dual GSM/CDMA and international would occasionally be nice, I'll be sticking with ting for now.

But I'll still hope that this puts some price pressure on ting. A good start would be going essentially to bill-per-(mega/giga)byte or rolling over unused megabytes, which would save us on average a few bucks a month---plus stop us worrying about going over 500 megs in a month, the point at which the next price tier kicks in for $7 more.
posted by jepler at 1:30 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Already working on those perfect words for that future phone call to Rogers when Google releases this in Canada.

If I may suggest...

"Go fuck yourself with a rusty chainsaw, you horrific assbags. I would literally rather eat week-old Timbits in vomit-sauce than ever pay you a cent ever again."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:32 PM on April 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


boo_radley, guess I'm just the lucky one. Other than the memory leak bug, which didn't hit me nearly as hard as my SO since the 6 has 2GB of memory rather than the 5's 1GB, I've been really happy with my N6.

On a completely different note, I think it's pretty funny how many people just assume Sprint and T-Mobile coverage sucks. In my experience, all the carriers are pretty much the same in most cities, just with a dead spot here instead of there, they each have a few cities in which coverage sucks beyond belief and they each have cities in which it is pretty dumb not to use them if you live there.

The real difference between at&t/Verizon and T-Mobile/Sprint is rural coverage. If you are like the vast majority of people who almost never leave town or if you do you fly from one big city to another, you'll be equally likely to have decent coverage from any of them.
posted by wierdo at 1:36 PM on April 22, 2015


only political reform will change anything.

Google Fibre and this new service are an attempt to refute that claim.


It's been how many years since Google announced it's "fiber" project and how many places have it? If anyone knows how to wring profits out of a network it's Verizon: if Verizon couldn't finance a nationwide role-out of fiber, what makes Google different?

The problem with any MVNO is: what do you own? For GooFi, the wireless data is provided by the Sprint/TMobile, and the wired data is provided by Comcast/TW/etc. In the end, all that a MVNO owns is it's customer base. Given Google's vaunted skill in customer service how valuable will that be? Suppose GooFi is wildly popular, then Comcast or Sprint immediately go to Google with a new "cost structure" for Google customers... can Google switch to other providers? No, because the whole communications industry is an oligopoly with little real enforcement against anti-competitive behavior.

An MVNO can only be as big as it's network providers let it be. The point of GooFi, is probably either regulatory or adjacent to some business negotiation. Google will never lobby for strong enforcement of existing anti-competitive laws or new laws because their own business model is based on the same strategy as Comcast or Verizon, by exploiting their monopoly on "search."
posted by ennui.bz at 1:49 PM on April 22, 2015


So, here's the thing. I scroll halfway down the page, and there's a little comparison chart explaining how much I'll save with Google Fi over my current plan. Because I'm using Android and Google collects All The Things, it's not just an example-- it's my actual data usage stats, and my actual plan.

Now, I know that Google collects this data. Whether they should or not is another question, but I already accept that they have it. But if you're going to immediately throw that data in my face as part of your marketing, that indicates a massive lack of discretion. You're asking me to use a service that at least notionally requires a degree of trust, and then you're actually showing me that you're undeserving of that trust in your marketing materials.

For me, that's a huge fail and classic Google, because they make boneheaded mistakes like this all the time and seem unable to learn from their mistakes. So, yeah, excited about the plan and the technology, and also very skeeved out by Google. Again.
posted by phooky at 1:57 PM on April 22, 2015 [12 favorites]


Suppose GooFi is wildly popular, then Comcast or Sprint immediately go to Google with a new "cost structure" for Google customers... can Google switch to other providers? No, because the whole communications industry is an oligopoly with little real enforcement against anti-competitive behavior.

An MVNO can only be as big as it's network providers let it be.


My hope would be by that they are establishing a customer base to transition to a next generation technology that Google X is working on such as Project Loon or some alternative distributive internet technology which would be independent of the traditional communications industry. Sort of a by the time you realize what I am, I already have what I need.
posted by 27kjmm at 1:58 PM on April 22, 2015


Can we call it GooFi for short?

Oh, as if you could stop me.
posted by JHarris at 2:03 PM on April 22, 2015


The ad is absolutely brilliant.

"tech that just works"
"a new way to say hello"

Aren't those, er, Apple things?

("Hello. Again." (1998) iMac slogan based on original "Hello." Macintosh brochure.)
"It just works". (OSX release)
posted by chavenet at 2:13 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


phooky, that was not my experience. Are you sure it wasn't just that the default coincidentally corresponded to your usage? I used 4GB of cell data last month and it started out at 1 or 2, I forget which.
posted by wierdo at 2:13 PM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


An MVNO can only be as big as it's network providers let it be.

Google has been in trouble in the past few years for monitoring open wifi networks as part of the Google Mapping projects.

Android has gotten much, much better in the past year at automagically logging into public wifi sites, the ones with web pages where you have to click ok and agree to a bunch of bullcrap legalese. So good, in fact, I've just magically gotten internet access a number of times this year when travelling without even knowing how I was connected.

In cities, particularly in areas with free wifi like business centres and airports and such, I don't think cell service is going to matter a lot to GooFi. Like Google always does, they're going to, as far as they can, make someone else pay for a free service.

Is that going to matter? Probably not to the end-users (I hesitate to call them customers---they sort of are, but they sort of aren't too), but it's going to really reduce costs for Google, I suspect.
posted by bonehead at 2:16 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


It was 3GB, actually, that it defaulted to. I've seen no indication that Android uploads data usage info to Google. Location data, yes, if you opt in.
posted by wierdo at 2:16 PM on April 22, 2015


I lied again. I misunderstood what it was phooky was referring to. The comparison widget actually defaults to a 2GB plan with 1.2GB of usage, something I have literally never had.
posted by wierdo at 2:18 PM on April 22, 2015


Me too. I have a 2 GB pay-as-you-go plan with Boost*, but I just started it this month, so I didn't have any data usage last month, much less the 1.2 GB that it showed.

* - I had Boost a few years ago. It uses the Sprint network. I liked it then, but I hate it now. 4G worked fine at my old house, but I don't get any data connection at all at my new house, aside from WiFi. I've also changed jobs since I last had Boost. I don't get 4G at work, either. Both are in the city. I also had to root my phone on day one to get rid of the ridiculous bullshit apps they foisted on me. I'm going to ditch Boost after this 30 days is up. I only paid $60 outright for the phone. There's no contract so I can walk away from this bad deal. That's why I won't take a contract.
posted by double block and bleed at 2:46 PM on April 22, 2015


According to the faq they're saying there's no restrictions at all on tethering so that's nice.
posted by Carillon at 2:51 PM on April 22, 2015


Given that the Goofi plan is $10/mo/GB even internationally, a bunch of Canadians have been wondering if it would be worth getting the Google plan through the States, even though that means having to go to the trouble of setting up a US billing address and CC. These are not insurmountable problems, but it does cost a bit of money and hassle to set it up.

It turns out that the catch is that non-US data is limited to 256 kbps (around 3G rates?). Otherwise, it would be cheaper by a fair bit to buy as US phone and use it roaming, permanently, in Canada.
posted by bonehead at 2:51 PM on April 22, 2015


I have ting and it works great for me. Over the past year, my average bill is around $29.00 per month, and that includes my first device purchase. If I scratch off the device purchase, I'm right around $26.00/month. I like ting because I only pay for what I use. Most months that's a lot of texts, a few phone calls and less than 100 MB of data. I find that is enough to get transit directions and schedules, check my email and maybe use Google Maps once a week. My bill has gone up when I travel, mostly because of constant use of data, but that's what I expect.

Sprint LTE coverage is only okay-- Bay Area has some dead zones, so does NYC. But I haven't had too many problems getting signal for voice or text, which I assume is because ting uses roaming on Verizon.

Google seems to be at a price point between ting and the unlimited data plans. I noticed that ting charges $29.00/month for over 2000 MB of data, while Google charges $20.00, in addition to the $20.00 base rate for unlimited minutes and texts.

The big database of open, stable wifi and VPN tunneling are a big deal, and I think it will drop data usage significantly in urban areas.
posted by wuwei at 2:52 PM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have mad love for Ting, not just because of pricing, but because I do not have a lot of faith that I will be able to call Google and talk to a real human being who is a native English speaker who will fix my problem within five minutes. I still like my Nexus 5 and I think the stock Android experience is a good one, but I have no idea why I'd choose Google as a provider when Ting is an option.
posted by Sequence at 3:07 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


The main problem with this, ignoring that if you use more than maybe 3gb of data it starts being an awful deal, is that tmobile and sprint are the WORST NETWORKS. It may be different elsewhere, but in seattle and everywhere i've traveled they're so bad. I had sprint for probably half a decade, and tmobile for a couple years(and then briefly again for a few months late last year just to give them another chance because their plans were so good).

Utter. Garbage.

I'm guesing that AT&T and verizon told them to fuck themselves, but they're not exactly starting from a strong position here using the most shitbutt networks out there.

Sprint also has a long track record of second-class-citizening MVNO customers, which is an experience i've never had on AT&T.

I'm also extremely suspicious that having to leave wifi on all the time to use the "trusted hotspots" will murder battery. I've owned basically every iphone, and a bunch of android phones from the G1 to the nexus 5 and the G3. iOS can do ok now with wifi left on 24/7 and not notice a huge battery hit, but on android all of googles fancy wifi mapping/scanning/hotspot analysis stuff MURDERS battery. Even on phones with enormous batteries.

I also feel like "wifi calling lol!" isn't a solution to how much these networks suck. Since searching for signal relentlessly also murders the hell out of your battery.(And yes, on both sprint and tmobile i would regularly have no signal inside my... own house, or my partners parents house, or at my desk at work, or in the back office at work where the other carriers work fine. They offered me microcells, and i told them i'd need a pallet of 50 and one that fit in my backpack)
posted by emptythought at 4:09 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ars Technica has a comparison of competing plans. They conclude that the flexible data pricing is GooFi's best advantage: "Project Fi's pay-only-for-the-data-you-use policy has the potential for savings, but if you use roughly the same amount of data per month and can perfectly fit yourself into a plan from another prepaid carrier, you have a good chance of saving money elsewhere."
posted by bonehead at 4:10 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


The real difference between at&t/Verizon and T-Mobile/Sprint is rural coverage. If you are like the vast majority of people who almost never leave town or if you do you fly from one big city to another, you'll be equally likely to have decent coverage from any of them.

This is why I am stuck with Verizon for the foreseeable future, because in most remote areas around here only Verizon seems to have service. I love nothing about them, except that I can get service in places where other people can't. (Even with that, there is a lot of standing on top of trucks or going up a hill on an ATV to get just enough signal to be able to make a call or open an email.)

I would have guessed I was a heavy data user, with all the hours I spend streaming Pandora while driving, but I seem to predictably use about 1 gig/month, which is a lot less than I would have thought. Pandora must use incredibly efficient compression.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:36 PM on April 22, 2015


According to the faq they're saying there's no restrictions at all on tethering so that's nice.

Makes sense. If they charge per byte, they want you to consume as much data as possible through their pipes.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 6:18 PM on April 22, 2015


I'm on Virgin Mobile currently and Google Fi is still a win for me because of the international data coverage. Hey, I can use Google Maps to find my way from the conference venue to the hotel! And not feel like I'm some throwback to dinosaur era because I have a non-GSM phone which does not work in Europe.

Nexus 6 isn't looking too shabby, either...
posted by Ender's Friend at 6:45 PM on April 22, 2015


I have no idea why I'd choose Google as a provider when Ting is an option.

Ting's customer service really is ridiculously good, unless it's a problem that only Sprint can solve.

Sprint also has a long track record of second-class-citizening MVNO customers

Yep. Still, there aren't many problems that fall into that category for me, so Ting it is.
posted by asperity at 6:56 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am perplexed why Google would enter the low margin prepaid market with a even cheaper plan. It's obviously not for the money, so it makes me wonder what benefit they can extract from their "customers".

Perhaps this is a very big Hangouts test.
posted by meowzilla at 7:23 PM on April 22, 2015


. an unbelievably huge "Fuck You" to the telecom industry, which continues to gouge customers who travel internationally.

Actually, TMobile already includes unlimited international texts and data on all postpaid plans. Its pretty slow sometimes, but fucking amazing. Apparently it will cut off if you are out of the country for more than a month or so - I'll find out in a couple weeks, I guess.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:13 PM on April 22, 2015


After what I've gone through with Google Voice, which now no longer works with my Galaxy S5 and for which the "support" for that and a variety of issues I've had over the years has been a series of frustrating conversations in Google's product forums, I don't think I like the idea of having the entire package handled by Google. As evil as my current provider is—among the most evil, for sure—at least there is some level of customer service provided, and the service itself is probably not going to shut down on a whim. Google's products are great, and I rely on them on a daily basis in both my personal life and my work life, but their phone service thus far has not been reliable.
posted by limeonaire at 10:34 PM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's the two shortest of buses in the telecom industry to make a useless super network.

Want coverage on the 5 between SF and LA? I hope you enjoy GSM and CDMA 1xRTT because that's what you're going to get according to the coverage map.
posted by Talez at 10:43 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


The real difference between at&t/Verizon and T-Mobile/Sprint is rural coverage. If you are like the vast majority of people who almost never leave town or if you do you fly from one big city to another, you'll be equally likely to have decent coverage from any of them.

Except, not. I mean i realize i already kind of said this, but i've extensively used these networks in Seattle and Portland. There's dead spots and useless zones all over the place, and the instant you get in to the suburbs it's 1-2 bars of 3g or even edge. Hell, if you look at the coverage map it even shows how washed out the colors get in some areas even in town. I'd regularly get no signal driving out in to the close-in suburbs, or even just on certain blocks right in the middle of town(near UW, some areas downtown, parts of south lake union and capitol hill).

I remember at one point trying to stream music on my phone at a friends new place before their internet got hooked up, and i ended up taping it to the front window with painters/gaff tape so it could get enough signal. I also remember having a specific couch i'd sit on in one of my old apartments to get reliable service.

Rural coverage is nonexistant too, not just "bad". You get on a major highway and drive for a half hour or so in any direction and literally have zero signal. But even if i strictly stay within where king county metro can take me, there's so many dead zones that i actually missed plenty of important calls and at one point almost lost my job over it.

I'd really love to know what parts of the country tmobile isn't that bad in, if you're in a major city. Because i never visited them while i had the service.

I am perplexed why Google would enter the low margin prepaid market with a even cheaper plan. It's obviously not for the money, so it makes me wonder what benefit they can extract from their "customers".

I'm shocked mostly at the data limits. I figured this would be some all you can eat $49.99(or even $39.99, which would be "disruptive") "all you can eat" type plan that just had unlimited everything, and attempt to use the wifi hotspot system and carrier aggregation/hot switching to mitigate the load between networks. 1gb of data at $10 per gb isn't even that surprising of a deal. It's only a bit cheaper than going over on the major carriers, even.
posted by emptythought at 12:38 AM on April 23, 2015


Nthing Ting.

I've been with them for two years and change now. While their service can be spotty at times, the $21-32/mo bill on an aging galaxy s4 is so much better than my old iPhone 4 at a discounted $65/mo.

As said above, their customer service is on another scale.

Anecdotally: I was stuck in a traffic jam, trying to get on the freeway and I phone-mailed their customer service department about when my new phone (the aforementioned s4) would be delivered, they didn't give me a tracking number. I got a response email, an actual email from an actual human in less than four minutes. "Sphinx, thank you for using Ting. Your new phone is on your back porch."
posted by Sphinx at 5:59 AM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


1gb of data at $10 per gb isn't even that surprising of a deal. It's only a bit cheaper than going over on the major carriers, even.

Agreed, but Google seem to be a bit more fair in terms of the way that they bill for that data. If you use 2.01GB, you're not stuck paying for 3GB/mo, or given a useless rollover that needs to be used within a month. Instead, you get a credit on your next bill for the (exact) proportional amount that you didn't use.

It's not as good as a refund, but I think that it seems pretty fair. Bandwidth and phones probably aren't free to Google, and I'd argue that Google's model is more transparent, democratic, and sustainable.
posted by schmod at 7:06 AM on April 23, 2015


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