I signed up for Google’s Project Fi wireless service at the end of 2016. It’s not necessarily the best wireless network for everyone, but it meets my needs perfectly.

This week Google launched a new quiz that you can take to figure out if Project Fi would end up costing more or less than your current plan and/or if it offers perks that you don’t already get.

But one thing that’s starting to bug me? The only phones that work with Project Fi are recent Nexus and Pixel devices. While I’m a long-time Nexus loyalist, the growing number of $200 – $400 smartphones with strong specs is looking more and more tempting.

But the thing that’s probably going to keep me from jumping ship is the fact that none of those phones work with Project Fi… and it seems unlikely that Google will release a Fi-compatible phone in that price range anytime soon.

Update: But it does look like Project For may begin offering support for mid-range phones from third party partners!

Right now Google only sells three Project Fi-compatible phones: the $649 Google Pixel, the $749 Google Pixel XL, and the $399 Google Nexus 6P.

I managed to pick up a $249 Nexus 5X when they were still available, and it works just fine with Project Fi. The phone has a great camera, a decent screen, and I’d generally be pretty happy with it if the Nexus 5X had another gigabyte or two of RAM. While the phone occasionally feels sluggish, my biggest gripe is that some applications will close unexpectedly in the background if I’m doing too much multitasking.

So I’d be tempted to upgrade to a more powerful phone… except I’d rather not buy a Nexus 6P which won’t be supported for much longer (and which has an enormous screen), and I definitely don’t want to spend $649 on a phone.

There’s a good chance Google will drop the price of the first-gen Pixel when the new Pixel phones launch later this year. But unless Google cuts the price in half, I’m not sure I want to make the switch… I’m more likely to switch wireless carriers if I need a new phone and Google doesn’t open up Fi to non-Google phones by then.

That would be a shame though, because there are some things I really like about Google’s phone network:

  • You only pay for the data you use: if you pay for more than you need at the start of the month you’ll get a refund at the end of the month for any unused data.
  • Tethering does not cost extra.
  • There are no roaming fees when using the phone in 135 countries, and international rates for phone calls are reasonably low.
  • Project Fi doesn’t include a long-term contract, so you can leave at any time… if you can find another network that meets your needs.

I made the switch from AT&T/Straight Talk to Project Fi primarily because I wanted to be able to use my phone as a mobile hotspot while I was covering the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year. I didn’t expect to save money. I just expected to add functionality.

As it turns out, I’ve saved quite a bit of money. I had been paying $45 per month for “unlimited” data, but I wasn’t actually using very much in a typical month.

Now I pay about $30 – $35 in the average month, since I rarely use more than 1GB of data. Any time I do, I just pay $1 per 100MB. Typically that only happens in months when I go out of town or do a lot of remote work. My first international trip since switching to Fi is coming up, and I’m kind of excited about the prospect of using my phone in another country without buying a new SIM card.

I will admit, I got slightly more reliable coverage with Straight Talk, which connected to AT&T’s cellular network. But the only time I really notice a difference in Philadelphia is when I’m riding the subway: AT&T worked at most stations. Project Fi only works at some stations.

But if my Nexus 5X eventually starts to boot loop or runs into other problems, I’m not sure what I’ll do.

Google says only Nexus and Pixel phones have the hardware to seamlessly switch between WiFi, Sprint, and T-Mobile networks. But there’s nothing stopping Google from working with third-party phone makers to add that technology to their devices.

While I prefer stock Android to the skinned versions most phone makers use, and I love getting monthly security updates directly from Google, I’m not sure I want to pay $600 or more for a phone when you can get great phones for half the price.

The Moto G5 Plus, Moto Z Play, OnePlus 3T, ZTE Axon, and Honor 8 all look like great options. But they don’t work with Project Fi.

So while I’m actually a big fan of using a Google phone with Google’s wireless network, if Google doesn’t offer mid-range options in the future, I might end up leaving both behind.

What about you? Have you tried Fi? Would you be more likely to use it if you could bring a non-Nexus or Pixel phone?

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54 replies on “I’m starting to wish Google’s Project Fi supported more phones”

  1. I just got done talking with project fi kind of upset because my wife bought a Nexus 6p and we had to get the warranty on it because the speaker blew out but they’re replacing the Nexus 6p with the pixel XL 128gb version keep in mind I bought the Nexus 6p when it was only $399 and now you can buy the Nexus pixel XL for $900 financed. And here I am with the Nexus 5x scrub phone with the only upgrades offered are some crazy amount of money
    Moral of the story is the customer service guy said wait for the deals to come out because he said I probably won’t be disappointed so if you wait it out and hopefully your Nexus doesn’t bootloop which mine did and I’ve already been on my replacement for months now. Maybe you can afford the discount prices of the pixel phones. There that was my rambling message.

    1. Yeah, I don’t want to switch, but I see no other choice. I love having the seamless transition between wifi and cell networks, and not have to worry about whether or not I can use hangouts or have to use SMS for contacts.

      At this point I think Google wants Fi to become Apple. Almost no options, single vendor lock-in and absurdly expensive hardware.

  2. Short story on my 6P battery issues and a CHEAP Costa Rican BLU substitute – I started using Project Fi when they first started shipping the Nexus 6P over 1-1/2 years ago. The phone worked great until about 6 months ago. The battery started losing a charge quicker and quicker. I bought a battery on eBay for about $15 after the original battery couldn’t hold a charge for more than 3 hours. It was like a new phone again until a week ago while I was on vacation in Costa Rica. The pushed out an update and I ran it. Later on the next day it was displaying the Google logo. I believe it’s what you call, boot loop. Not sure if the update caused it or if the phone just has a problem. To get me by for the next week I bought the cheapest BLU smartphone at the local Walmart. I put the Project Fi sim card in and I was back in business. Since getting back to the US, I basically had to just add an APN which only required a name of “Project Fi” and enter “h2g2” for the APN itself. Data, text, phone calls, and voicemails are working. The BLU phone cost me $64, new! Only downside is the lack of memory in it. I might just switch to a higher level BLU phone and ditch the $500 plus Google phones from here on out.

  3. I totally agree. They want you to get a pixel to use it with Project FI. Any lower cost option now is a much older phone, phones subject to lots of issues. Even the Pixel has its own share of problems–and if you need a replacement, it could take a long time or never, depending on who you speak to.
    You can put the project fi sim into another phone–it will work on tmobile–but they shut it down if you get noticed.

    I think it is a service with a lot of potential, but until they have more phones to choose from, it will be limited. And ruin the ease of use if you have issues getting a compatible phone.

    And keep in mind–mint sim runs off tmobile and has very cheap plans–not as good about charging you only for what you use like fi, but at least it can work in any phone with tmobile bands–even wifi calling on select models.

  4. I’ve had Fi for over a year and I used it to get a cheap Nexus 5x. I have done a decent amount of international travel and being able to land and have the phone “just work” is amazeballs. Mine started to bootloop about 8 months in and the nice people at Fi sent be a brand new one the next day. It’s worked flawlessly ever since, but it’s definitely a matter of time until it also bootloops. I also don’t like being locked into a specific phone, but I did have some luck with the SIM in a handful of other phones (my old Moto X and an iPhone 6). I didn’t get to test them out internationally, but most local stuff seemed to work okay.

    I still think the convenience and price are totally worth it. Again, if this 5x buys the farm, I’ll be in a similar boat as you. Given that, the Pixel sounds like it’s worth it, but I’m choosing Fi because of it’s frugality, I should be able to choose a phone on similar grounds.

  5. Love Fi for international travel. Data? Yup. Maps? Yup. In one month I had 13 timezones and 8 more the next. 12 countries and Fi found them all… No issues and easily broken out billing.

    Now if I could just get voice working properly…

  6. Same feeling here. Wife’s 5X bootlooped and the fastest way to get a replacement phone was Craigslist. That’s very annoying.

  7. That’s almost precisely my issue. I have a 6P currently, and it’s gotten a bit dented in — but the only phone available now is a Pixel, and a) I’m not buying a phone a few months before they release another, and b) that counts doubly if it’s $800. So I’m switching to Boost and getting a phone that is a match for the 6P in all except screen resolution and on-board memory, but is also only $150. I’ll be paying $5 more ($35) for unlimited, plus unlimited music streaming, and if I fall into $800 they have that level of phone available too. Love you, Project Fi, but I’m done with your phone pigeon-holing and your data isn’t the cheapest anymore either.

  8. Project Fi works really great in other countries. I travelled to India with my Nexus 5x last year and it was good everywhere. At most major cities I was having 4G connection and at least 3G in other places. Making voice calls was very convenient at just $0.20 per minute. The pricing is good and transparent.

    The only thing I wish from Project Fi is that it should get some new features. I don’t know what features but family plan doesn’t work good as long as supported devices are limited. AT&T and T-MOBILE offer much better family plans. Would like to see something like that. I know that Project Fi is good for international usage and it’s the best, but I usually don’t travel​ that much.

  9. I completely agree. Currently have the 6p and wife has 5x on Fi. My 6p battery is getting bad and I love the ability to forward all calls and texts to my work phone. However the lack of phones and the insane price of the pixils is making me debate on moving to T-Mobile.

  10. Whole it’s true that other phones are not “supported” Fi only requires that the sim card is activated on a supported phone. After it’s activated you can put the sim card in any GSM phone and it’ll work on the GSM carrier.

  11. I love Project Fi. It’s not completely true though that you need a Google device. I started with a Nexus on the plan, but have been using a Motorola device for almost a year now on the service with no problems what so ever. All I needed was a sim card adapter. Works perfectly.

  12. Been on ProFi with a Nexus 6 now for a few years or so. Good service except for the lack of rings when answering. My monthly is $26.06. Google does not respond to complaints about rings. My 6 throttles down to 2 cores after consuming half of battery. No support now except for security updates till the end of 2017. I use crDroid rom on my Nexus 7 2013, & Resurrection Remix on my nexus Hammerhead. But the discussion on XDA Nexus 6 threads is that Android 8.0 will not support 32bit hardware! Thus no custom roms for the 6 beyond Nougat/7.1.2. Disaster! Maybe Pixel 2 in the future but the cost might be prohibitive. I would rather spend $470 on a new Asus c302 chromebook! Looking at the alternatives mentioned in the comments here. Thanks to Brad for the discussion.

  13. I love my Nexus 6P and project Fi. I am unlikely to ever switch back to another provider. It works seamlessly internationally. I was able to use Duo over my data connection in Tokyo.

  14. I am in exactly the same place. I just got my replacement 5x because of the boot loop — which cost me hundreds of beautiful vacation photos. I really wish Google would incorporate other devices so I could have a phone with an SD card! I used Ting before and would go back to them, but I agree the stock Android experience and ease of use while traveling are huge for me.

    1. @Lydia Costume, I just received my replacement phone about a month ago and had the same issue with my photos. I finally figured out that my old pictures were under a different email address. If you go to your photos icon, check to see what your email address is, and change it if necessary. All of your pictures should be there.

  15. Yup same boat,love the service but not the phone. I too have a Nexus 5x and lately the battery has been struggling to last for a full day, and it’s very annoying only being able to have 2 or 3 apps open at the same time before experiencing major lag..

  16. Go to a t-mobile store and ask for their data only plans for phones (aka hearing impaired). $20 a month for data. Then use Google voice for calls and texts and your set. Free streaming and 2 gb for everything else.

    1. It’s like doing project Fi on your own terms because that’s all Fi is anyway (using Google voice and data to minimize network usage and costs).

  17. There are other options- I picked up a Nexus 6P for $200 off a second hand app. Not to mention, buying a new phone with Google Fi would still put most people’s monthly bill under what they pay at another carrier, probably by tens of dollars a month.

  18. I started Fi 3 years ago and I loved it. My Verizon bill was over $100/month. It brought it down to about $60/month and weeks great. Then came 2017. T-Mobile announced unlimited everything for $50/line. Well, the only thing I disliked about fi was that it would often switch to Sprint when T-Mobile was a far superior connection 99%of the time. I switched and haven’t been happier. If Fi gets an unlimited plan I would switch back, but for now, it’s much too expensive and requires too much usage management. With Fi, a single YouTube video could cost me $5…a movie on Netflix $12. Not cool.

  19. It’s a non-issue for me, as I prefer Nexus/Pixel devices. If you’re in that camp, project Fi is great.

  20. I used Project FI for a year – now have MintSim. Project FI is too expensive even if you use as little as 1GB of LTE data a month. Google needs to lower the price. I paid $30 for 1GB of data with Project FI – $27 for 10GB of data with MintSim (1 year prepaid).
    But IMHO Project FI is still useful under 2 circumstances:
    1. For people who travel international regular to countries where Project FI has service.
    2. In rural areas where cellular coverage is poor but the combination of multiple carriers makes the situation better. This is the situation one of my sisters and her grown children are in. Project FI is the best alternative for them to have a usable phone more of the time.

  21. I’ve used project fi with my iPhone 5 before I switched to my Nexus 5x and it worked fine!!

  22. Why couldn’t you buy the phone you want, get the free data sim from Project Fi, and install Hangouts?

  23. I am in exactly the same boat! I adore the pricing–the service is not as strong as my former Verizon service, but the price point more than offsets any issues. I LOVE stock android and zero bloatware. I just want to be able to try some of the phones you’re talking about. The harsh reality is that i don’t NEED to spend upwards of $750 on a darn phone, and I shouldn’t for the health of my budget–which is why I love Project Fi in the first place. Please, please, please listen Google.

  24. Yup. I have a 5x with Pro-Fi too. Same concerns, same conclusions for the most part. Though my plan is just to find another nexus 5x refurbed or used when this one dies.

  25. You don’t have to worry! Protect Fi DOES work with other phones besides the phones listed, but Google doesn’t want you to buy phones other than the ones they endorse. As proof, I’m typing this response out on my OnePlus 3T with a Project Fi Sim in it. I’m able to make calls and texts off WiFi no problem, I have full access to LTE, I’m even able to get the Protect Fi app so I can see all my payments, data usage, and other helpful stuff about the service. However, there are some limitations currently, since this phone isn’t meant to be used with the service. The first issue is multi media texts. They don’t send, nor can they be received. This may not be a problem if you don’t use texting to send pictures, as I tend to use FB messenger and just use data, which works fine. The other issue I ran into, is the voicemail. The visual voicemail fails to function at all, and I struggled initially when trying to reach the voicemail by calling. The service didn’t recognize my pass code or something. Eventually, I got it fixed will little hassle by resetting the pass code, however.

      1. My guess is it’ll only work once you’ve set up the Google Fi service and paying to start the monthly payments/cycle. If you’ve already done this, I haven’t a clue. All I did when I got my OnePlus 3T was download the Project Fi App from Google Play and logged in. Heck, I don’t even know if I had to log in.

        1. Was the Fi sim already activated with a Nexus or Pixel phone or did you activate it on the OnePlus 3T?

  26. My 2nd Nexus 5X freezes and crashes 1-2 times a day. The first one died a sudden death and was replaced under warranty. I’m thinking about getting a new phone and using my project fi data sim in it. I don’t make a lot of calls anyway and don’t mind carrying 2 phones.

  27. I’ve been on project fi before and I can say it does work on nearly any smartphone that uses the networks under the service. It’s not as good as using it on a Google phone but it does for sure work on nearly any phone even iPhones. (no I didn’t read the whole article)

  28. Unless the international roaming matters then why not just go with att gophone $30 (autopay) for 1gb and unlimited talk/text/2g. Tethering included. You say you pay $30 or so anyway and rarely go over 1gb. There is a 30day rollover of unused data too.

  29. I’m fine with the 6P, but am very dissatisfied with the call quality. Often incoming calls go right to VM. Sometimes outgoing calls take long to connect. And when connected voice qaulity remind me of the 90s.

    1. I had the same problem with Fi. The call quality was terrible with both my Nexus 5X and Pixel. I switched to T-Mobile a couple months ago, and since then call quality has been excellent. Especially when it’s using VoLTE. I’m much happier on T-Mobile overall. I get unlimited data now for $50 per month. That’s just $5 more than my average Fi bill.

  30. If it boot loops (mine did) do not touch the back case or you could void your warranty. Learned that the hard way.

    1. Don’t worry if it bootloops and you send it in, they’ll blame anything else and not honor any refund. For us a sticker on the inside claimed water damage but you could clearly see the bootloops issue was the problem.

  31. You can always use the Project Fi Sim card with any phone after activating it on a Fi supported phone. So if you have a friend who can do it for you, or you can buy a cheap used phone, you should be good!
    I’ve tried using my sim card in an iPhone 6 Plus, and it worked perfectly!

  32. My Nexus 5X encountered the bootloop and I decided to switch to a Huawei Honor 5X. The are only a few significant differences as follows:
    1. Bigger screen, 5.5″ vs 5.2″
    2. Bigger battery to go with the bigger screen
    3. 8 CPU cores, all A53 instead of 6 cores with 2x A57
    4. Micro-USB instead of USB-C
    5. No 5Ghz WiFi

    The only other option I considered was the ZTE Axon 7, even the mini with the same screen size as the Nexus 5X. Of course, the price starts at about double that of the Honor 5X.

    Imagine my surprise when I found that the Honor 5X works quite happy with Project Fi. Everything seems to be as operational as it was with my Nexus. Performance is about the same as well. I’ve also found the larger screen to be a nice bonus.

    The key was to wipe the phone clean with LineageOS and install the Google apps. If you’re able to do that, it can be a great backup or replacement for the Nexus 5X.

  33. I’m not happy with the limited choice of phones. I have the 6P. Waiting to see what google phone pricing is in the fall. I may look elsewhere

  34. I successfully use Project Fi with a Moto X Pure Edition and a Nexus 5X. I can’t have a camera phone at work so I have the camera removed from the Nexus and swap phones when I’m not at work. The thing I love about Project Fi is the second phone has a data-only sim and by using Hangouts I’m able to get all my texts and phone calls just like with a regular sim but using the data connection instead. When I get a text or call they come through on both phones simultaneously and there’s no issues with everything being synced between the two phones like when you do a single sim card shuffle between phones. I can’t even remember now which phone has which sim, they just work indistinguishably.

    I recently used both phones on a 4 month trip to Japan and the only issue I had was when I tried swapping the sims between phones halfway through my trip. One phone still worked but the other one wanted to revalidate and after an hour on the phone with Google it was impossible without the sim being able to see a United States based tower. So I ended up having to buy a Japanese SIM for that phone until I returned home. So DO NOT remove your SIM card if overseas!

  35. A friend and I have this conversation ALL the time. Fi has taught me to “sip” data, which is a good thing. I routinely shut off my data, and pop it on when I need it. Simple enough. 2 lines, about $45/month. Pretty damn good. BUT MetroPCS (T-Mobile) has a 2 GB each Family plan for $50, just $5 more. They’ll give me 2 new beater phones (Samsung J). And there’s unlimited music streaming with a couple providers. I wouldn’t have to “sip” data, at ONLY a $5 premium.

    Was/am really hoping Google announces US Android One devices. I do not need, nor want a premium $800+ Pixel phone. Give me instead a vanilla Android sub-$300 phone. That’s it. Something that’s “good enough.”

    I’m hanging tight for the moment, with Fi. But IF MetroPCS announces DIGITS, I’m there. A single number on 2 or more devices. I can then have a miniature workout phone (Jelly Pro?) along with my Moto Nexus 6.

  36. I think it’s interesting that Google’s own service, while a good value for very modest data consumption, is increasingly uncompetitive the more data you use. The international perks are convenient, but last winter I bought a sim w/20gb data in Stockholm for about $45 US. The upper limit on Google’s cost estimator doesn’t even go that high. In the UK Lyca was charging about $25 for 5gb.

    I would really prefer to use Google Fi for the convenience, but ain’t no way I’m paying 2-4x to avoid swapping a sim card.

  37. I’m on Ting(GSM via T-Mobile), which I like a lot. Sounds like there’s at least some similarity in that you pay for what you use, to a degree. I’m on wi-fi a ton, so I save big on data and subsequently pay a pretty low bill, most of the time. I don’t know enough about Project Fi to say how competitive those services are to each other. I can say that, for me, phone choice is the biggest thing. There are enough MVNOs around and all the big networks seem good enough where I live that I don’t have to settle for poor phone selection for the sake of service. Verizon had a poor choice of phones when I was with them, and I left Virgin Mobile(Sprint Network), which I liked, for that reason. I value having real choice of unlocked phones. Project Fi sounds nice, but the restrictions would be a deal breaker for me and I’m not going to pay Pixel prices.

    1. I’m on Ting also. Its terrific with more members, as each additional line is just $6/mo. Customer service is terrific and I find their online account wonderfully straightforward.

      1. I feel sorry for people who think Ting is good value. One day you might realize you are paying $6 for absolutely nothing. It has to be one of the most expensive MVNOs out there if not the most expensive. Plenty of MVNOs with terrific customer service and wonderfully straightforward account management.

  38. I’m in the same boat. I have a Nexus 6, and love Project Fi for all the reasons you mentioned. I also like that the monthly bill is clear and concise – AT&T should take lessons! Also, Fi is the only network that’s ever let me make calls in my apartment, thanks for wifi calling! But there’s no way I’m paying for a current Pixel, so have been reluctantly looking at moving to a network that lets me use any phone. Ting looks promising for my usage.

    @Chris Logan – I’m impressed you got an iPhone to work with Fi. I connected a Windows phone and it worked fine for a few hours, and then my number was disabled. It started working again when I put the SIM back in my Nexus.

  39. It is possible to use other phones with ProFi, I have successfully used an iPhone 5S for voice etc and I still use it with the data only sim. The main thing I noticed is that the voicemail system doesn’t work, no visual voicemail, no call transcript; you have to call in and check your voicemail box like it’s 1999!

    1. I don’t have that issue with my 6P. Sometimes the visual text cannot load, but I just have to but play and it’ll play. I’ve never once called in to my VM.

  40. Yeah, screw wireless really get a home phone, use wifi or get an online number. The expensive phones,bills. cancer and bad health from wireless radio signals is not something worth paying for. This is not sarcasm, stop being a stupid consumer. Have you noticed how corporate and even small employers are keeping you on a leash with a phone you probably pay for?

  41. I’m in almost exactly the same frame of mind. I love Project Fi and I love getting system and security updates directly from Google for two and three years respectively. I’m also using a Nexus 5x which has already been replaced by Google just a couple months ago because of the dreaded bootloop issue. If it makes it to end of security updates in 2018, I am going to have a hard time justifying $600+ for a phone no matter how tempting it might be to own a Pixel.

    If I do have to reluctantly leave Fi and Google phones behind, it will probably be back to Republic Wireless and whatever current best mid-grade phone they have then – likely a Moto G whatever.

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